The actor, director and screenwriter Olivier Marchal carries the first edition of the theater festival “Les Scènes d’Olivier Marchal” which will take place at the Cravey Theater in La Test-de-Buch on 10, 11, 12, 13 and 18, 19 and November 20.
We know you more in the cinema or on television than in the theater but it all started with the theater
I started my journey in the theater, my first steps as an actor I took them in the theater thanks to my theater teacher Jean-louis Guilleron who was my drama teacher in the 19th arrondissement. He had a company and he organized a festival with plays that we played outdoors, that’s how I started playing with him. He gave me my first small roles. After casting after casting, I played The Righteous and I was noticed on stage by a casting director who made me play roles. I came to the cinema through writing, not through acting, and it was thanks to the theater that I mainly began to take leading roles on television and then in the cinema.
What excites you about the theatre?
In the theatre, we don’t have the means of escaping like we can do on television or in the cinema. If the grip is not good, we stop we can start again. In the theatre, the curtain opens and there is no prompter, no teleprompter, we work without anything and it is a physical and intellectual exercise. I like it when the intellectual approach mixes with the physical and you no longer have a choice, you’re completely shut down for an hour and a half or two hours.
It’s adrenaline for an hour and a half whereas in the cinema you can have very intense sequences for 30 seconds, one minute or two minutes. There is also a physical or mental state which is different in the actors which means that one evening we will surprise ourselves, it will be wonderful, without any misplaced ego and sometimes you find yourself useless. And when the performance goes wonderfully and the audience is in communion with you, then we are on cloud nine.
It’s also putting yourself in danger…
Yes, theater is physical, there is an animal side, it smells of perspiration backstage, on stage, it smells of fear, we are scared to death. Afterwards, there is a sadomasochistic side to getting into such states. I don’t remember which actor said when asked “what time do you prefer at the theatre”: “It’s when the curtain falls and the audience applauds me” (laughs). And I think that’s so much!
Cinema and theater are two different worlds
People come to see you because they like you on television, I never made the difference. Besides, I don’t understand why there is this difference between auteur cinema and popular cinema. We can make auteur cinema and make popular cinema just as we can make popular cinema from authors’ texts. I consider myself to be an author, even if I make commercial and popular cinema and that does not prevent me from seeing Odon’s films. Popularity, television has a lot to do with it, I owe a lot to television. that’s why I keep doing it, why I make TV series. I make no judgement, I go where they want to have me. I feel spoiled, flattered, happy and honored whenever someone calls me to work with me. I am one, as with all my gang, of people who are very touched when we put money on our heads.
Yes, but choices have to be made…
Yes and sometimes we are wrong. I wouldn’t like to end on a failure, but as Alain Delon said: “it’s very difficult to be known, after that it’s very difficult to continue and the hardest thing now is to leave”. It’s our obsession to end on a failure, I now understand certain actors who stop voluntarily on something good or honorable.
How did you choose the pieces for the festival?
I owe a lot to Mariane, whom I met in Marseille. She offered me a whole list of shows and I chose. This festival, I wanted to do it for a long time in La Teste, it turns out that Patrick Davet is a childhood friend, he became mayor so that obviously made things easier. I find that there is a lack of events in La Teste. I suffered from it when I was a kid, we had the circus, we had the cows and we had the port festivals, we rarely had shows.
I find that the Arcachon basin is a region that has exploded, that there is an energy that means that we could afford to set up a theater festival.
The proof, I believe that all the shows are full, it’s extraordinary, I didn’t expect that. François Berléand and Duléry are friends, François Xavier Demaison is a friend, Francis Huster is an exceptional guy that I know and he is a great theater man and a prodigious actor. Michel Boujenah, in L’Avare, I found him exceptional because he offers a never-before-seen facet of the Miser, he makes someone tragically unhappy of him. He makes him a moving character and he is also a friend of Michel, and humanly I wanted there to be actors who correspond to me in this festival.
How do you experience this event?
I’m a child of the country and I have a kind of complex to come back there, I don’t come back there to show myself and gargle about everything I’ve done on stage. Every time I come to present a film at La Teste, I’m always a little moved because I don’t come there saying “look what I’ve done”. I come here to share things in a region that I love deeply, where my children spent all their summers. They love it and that’s a source of great pride for me because I have great love for this region where I have lots of memories that are sometimes a little sad… linked to the death of my parents.
What are the memories that marked your youth?
I liked going to Le Vog cinema where I discovered “Once upon a time in the west”, “The Sicilian clan” and all these films from the time. I started working at a very young age in my parents’ pastry shop at the age of 12, I worked on weekends, holidays and in the summer I got up early at 5 a.m. and then at 1 p.m. I went to the beach and my parents gave me a 5 franc coin. With that I was going to see my two films a week and at the time we could stay after the film, so films like “Once Upon a Time in the West” or Inspector Harry, films with Charles Bronson, I saw them twice.
This passion for cinema goes back to that time…
Yes I was a cinephile, I had all the photos of Alain Delon, Gabin, Ventura. I remember when I was 10 my first shock at the cinema was “The Planet of the Apes”. I also liked books and especially thrillers.
Strangely, I was already drawn to the dark, I was looking for characters that matched me on the inside and I was looking for this need to escape into the cinema, to dream. I have a friend who produced many of my films and who died today, it’s a great loss for me and for cinema. He said: “Cinema must be more beautiful than life” And the theater is the same, it must be more beautiful than life.
Interview by Fabienne Amozigh-Gay