Interview - Guillame Canet
Paris in boom
Tom Dawson talks to Guillame Canet the man behind the best and most successful Parisian-set thriller of the year
A spring Saturday morning at London’s Claridges Hotel. Over scrambled eggs, toast and coffee, the French actor turned director Guillaume Canet is pondering why his innocent-man-on-the-run-thriller Tell No One, a dynamic adaptation of a novel by US crime writer Harlan Coben, has proved such a box-office success in France.
‘I think it’s because the main character Alex Beck [played by François Cluzet] is a normal man,’ explains the charming thirty-four-year-old in his fluent English. ‘What happens to him could happen to anyone. He’s not a conventional hero. He’s somebody who has lost his wife, and all his actions are motivated by his love for her. The love story is so important to the film - it’s the engine to the thriller.
‘I wasn’t expecting this to happen, but after the film came out in France people came up to me in the street and they wanted to talk about Tell No One and how much they’d loved it. They’d seen it three or four times, because they wanted to understand why the characters had behaved like they had. And different cinema managers told me that people were really emotionally affected by the film and were staying in their seats long after the credits had finished.’
From the outset the director relished the opportunity to a make a thriller that, in contrast to genre conventions, could primarily be filmed outdoors and in summer. ‘Very quickly I realised that I could shoot the film with lots of details like Michael Mann does,’ he adds. ‘We shot the accident on the Boulevard Peripherique [part of the film’s thrilling central chase sequence] with just two wide shots, because we wanted the close-ups on the actors.’
Presumably he must have felt under considerable pressure directing a film, with multiple locations and complicated, chronological story. ‘No,’ he smiles. ‘I spent a lot of time preparing how things would be shot. But I didn’t feel pressure about the money or the famous actors. I just didn’t think about those things. You have to draw on your unconscious when you make a film - you can’t worry about whether it’s costing a lot of money.’