Interview with actor and director Philippe Lacheau: “Nicky Larson was one of my favorite animated series”
Philippe Lacheau was born on June 25, 1980 in Fontenay-sous-Bois, Val-de-Marne, France. He is an actor, writer and director, known for Babysitting (2014), Babysitting 2 (2015) and Alibi.com (2017).
Nicky Larson et le Parfum de Cupidon (Nicky Larson and Cupid's Perfume) is a name of the latest French action comedy directed by Philippe Lacheau who also co-wrote the screenplay with Julien Arruti and Pierre Lacheau.
It is an adaptation of the Japanese manga and anime series City Hunter (known as Nicky Larson in France) by Tsukasa Hojo.
The film features Philippe Lacheau, Élodie Fontan, Tarek Boudali and Julien Arruti in lead roles, along with Didier Bourdon, Kamel Guenfoud, Sophie Mousel, Hélène Lamberti and Pamela Anderson in supporting roles.
Nicky Larson is the best bodyguard, an outstanding private investigator. He is called for a high-risk mission: to recover the Perfume of Cupid, a perfume that would make irresistible the one who uses it.
This weekend, in Romania, Prorom and Ro Image will release the comedy Nicky Larson et le Parfum de Cupidon and we invite you to read an interview with the actor and director Philippe Lacheau.
How did you come up with the idea of adapting Nicky Larson for the cinema?
I belong to the club generation Club Dorothée and Nicky Larson, who landed on French television in the 90s, was one of my favorite animated series because it was a real comedy. There was also action, police investigations, love stories, but it was especially funny. Nicky, beyond making me laugh, is the best in everything he undertakes: it's both a detective, a bodyguard, a lovelace... the James Bond of comedy in short. Unconsciously, it was therefore a kid's dream to embody the hero of my childhood in the cinema.
Have you acquired the rights easily?
Not at all! It was a very long process. We got some help from Stephane Huard, CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment France, who through their American and Japanese studio affiliates has allowed us to meet manga creator Tsukasa Hojo. Prior to granting our rights, the Japanese author asked for a right to read the script. After eighteen months of writing, I went to meet him, with my manuscript under my arm, full of fears. After 48 hours, the verdict came: he liked it! I was very happy because he found that the script was loyal to his manga creations, and he made the most beautiful compliment I could ever get from him -- that he would have himself invented this original story.
How was the writing process?
In order to perfectly absorb the universe of Nicky Larson, Julien Arruti, my brother, Pierre Lacheau, Pierre Dudan and myself (the same team from Babysitting) we analyzed 144 episodes of the animated series that were broadcast in France and reread 37 numbers of manga. But I also saw the various adaptations that have been made abroad, including a Chinese movie with Jackie Chan. It was important to see everything to refresh our memories, we had to recover the tone to write. The most important thing was to keep the universe and the characters.
So I found the idea of a quest around Cupid's perfume, a perfume that has the power to make you irresistible. But the real challenge was to attract all the new generation that follows us from Babysitting, but who does not know Nicky Larson. This required a lot of rewriting.
Why is this movie a very personal one?
He sends me back to my childhood. Maybe that's why this is the movie that I'm the most proud of, because everything that comes to this moment of my life is sacred. I was fortunate enough to enjoy the moments when Dorothee (the one who made the Club Dorothee show in France in the '90s) was on our movie set, and I watched her with a child's eyes, reminding me of the show we enjoyed in our youth. It was as if I had met a friend I had not seen for many years. Moreover, it is personal because it brings together my friends, my parents, who appear in the movie, and the names of the characters are sometimes borrowed from relatives.
How did you prepare to become Nicky Larson?
I was so motivated that I exercise for eight months with diets and training, and I put 8 kg of muscle. In parallel, I worked diligently for choreography of the action scenes, I learned how to shoot with a Magnum gun, machine guns and other heavy weapons, then I dyed my hair. I remember the day the costume handed me Nicky's outfit: seeing me in his blue coat, his red shirt and his black pants made me feel very excited.
Was it from the beginning the idea to work with the same team again?
This is a question I cannot answer. It was an incredible opportunity to work with my friends and, as long as the public follows us, we will continue. This is an incredible luxury and it's great to see that from one movie to another some actors such as Didier Bourdon, Chantal Ladesou and Gérard Jugnot follow us and the “band” grows.
Newcomers immediately joined Nicky Larson's world?
It was interesting because, unlike some "special guests" like Audrey Lamy, Raphaël Personnaz or Jarry, who knew the animated series, the others had not heard of him. But they immediately found him funny, and they followed me with the same enthusiasm. It is fortunate that all these actors have joined us for one or two days because the scenes in which they appear have a size much higher than the scenario indicated. For them it may not have been a lot, but to me it was a lot.
Did you direct your actors as in your other movies?
With my friends I did not change my way of doing things. But I was very afraid, for example, to give directorial directions to Pamela Anderson! When we created the character, we thought it would be great to have her in the movie, because like Nicky Larson, it was a representative image of the 1990s. It was a real surprise that he accepted! And suddenly I woke up under pressure: I speak English very badly, and I did not know how to direct an American star on a shooting set. Would she do all I ask? Would she have extravagant demands? Does he ask for anything in return? Soon I got answers to my questions because the meeting was great! He did not refuse anything, because he was amused to play with his glamorous image.
Where did you shoot?
A little in the South, a little in the Paris region. The original manga is happening in Tokyo, but the filming would have been too expensive and it would have been strange, because the characters speak all French. So we decided to move it to us, but without marking the place. Like Gotham City in Batman, Nicky lives in a city that does not exist, and cannot be located. We filmed in Paris in La Defense, Beaugrenelle, but we added 3D buildings, and we removed the Eiffel Tower from some pictures... The only place mentioned is Monaco.
What were your sources of inspiration?
In the pure comedy, I have a true French culture, because my models have always been Francis Veber - my absolute master - Alain Chabat, Les Nuls, Les Inconnus and Le Splendid.
Among the French comedies of recent years, the series of Taxi movies were probably the most successful. But let's not forget Belmondo, including Le Magnifique, by Philippe de Broca. But this time I have to confess that I was more inspired by the American comedies, because they are very bold. The first time that I saw There’s Something About Mary, by the Farrelly Brothers, was a real shock. And I grew up with American Pie, these genres of movies that pushed the limits! This is an example for me.
The budget was important. Did you have any extra pressure?
When we pictured such a movie, we were scared at first. But to be credible, it was necessary to have money. I did not have the means for a Mission: Impossible kind of movie, but when the idea is to make a James Bond with accent on comedy, the bar is up. That's why we wanted the budget to be appropriate. So we used the best professionals, technicians who worked with Luc Besson and who did a great job in scenes that needed explosions, chasings and very realistic fights.
In the end, the movie is like you want it to be?
I am very happy, yes, because my purpose was to make the most funny movie and to mix it with action and feelings. And, thanks to my great editor, I have the feeling that I have succeeded.
Interview by Clara Géliot.