My France - Clovis Cornillac

Actor Clovis Cornillac loves the diversity of Paris but will always return to his home town of Lyon, he tells Pierre de Villiers

Actor Clovis Cornillac loves the diversity of Paris but will always return to his home town of Lyon, he tells Pierre de Villiers You were born in Lyon. Does the city still hold a special place in your heart?Absolutely. I live in Paris now but I am from Lyon (pictured below) and definitely feel very close to the place. My whole family are from there and I try and go back as often as I can. I actually opened a restaurant in Lyon recently called Jofe that serves Mediterranean food so I try and drop by whenever I find a moment. I also love the Lyon football club and have a lot of friends there so there are several reasons for me to spend time in the city.

What do you think makes Lyon such a special place?Lyon’s a strange but lovely place, really. During World War II it is where the Resistance was and you can understand why. There is still a flourishing underground scene. There are actually two levels to the city; there is the bourgeois, which you can see all around you, and then there is the underground with great rock music and other things. This level is hidden and you have to really explore the city to find it, which is great. Then there’s the fact that Lyon is only one hour from the mountains and one hour from the Mediterranean, which is perfect. It’s the centre of Europe.

What about Paris? Do you like living there?Oh yes. Paris is beautiful. I love everything about the city. I particularly like its diversity. You can walk for ten minutes and everything around you changes.

Is there a particular theatre in Paris that you are fond of?Yes, the Th��tre des Bouffes du Nord (behind the Gare du Nord) is special because that’s where I did my first play. Then you also have the lovely Th��tre National de la Colline. Paris is great place when it comes to theatres.

Your parents were actors. Is that why you become an actor? Well, I did want to become an actor from a young age but I couldn’t say if it’s because of my mother and father. You know, when you are a child you don’t want to do the same thing as your parents. And the picture they painted when it comes to acting was that it was by no means an easy thing to do. The truth is that usually it’s hard for actors and then sometimes, as in my case, you get lucky.

So you don’t want your own children to become actors?I hope not. There are loads of other things out there for them to do.

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What’s it like being an actor in France at the moment?Oh, I am really happy to be working in France. More than that I love being European. I really hope that cinema in Europe will grow more and that you will have English, French and Italian actors, directors and producers all working together. That’s the best way to do it. If we can start working together but keep our individual identities, that would be wonderful.

Have you ever been tempted to move to Hollywood?I think the American people are great. In fact, I think the country is even better now thanks to Barack Obama. The problem is that a French man can’t carve out a career for himself over there. Maybe a French girl can do it but not a man. It’s impossible. I could maybe play a bad guy in a Hollywood movie. I would do it with pleasure if they ask me to, but it’s not my life. The bottom line is Americans are making really beautiful films, just not with French actors.

You recently played Ast�rix on the big screen. What’s it like stepping in the shoes of such an iconic French character?I have become more famous in other countries where they speak French, like Belgium and parts of Africa. A really good thing to come out of playing Ast�rix is that I became friends with co-star G�rard Depardieu. We have actually just worked together again on a film called Bellamy, which was shot in N�mes.

Your latest film Paris 36  is set in a northeast suburb of Paris during the political upheaval surrounding the rise of the Popular Front in 1936. What attracted you to the movie?That period is very important in France and I remember my grandfather telling me about it. So when this role came up it reminded me so much of my grandfather and, because I knew about this time in French history, I thought it would be wonderful to be involved in the film.Paris 36 is on general release