Actor and major star Vincent Cassel embodies the role of famous artist Paul Gauguin in the much anticipated film from Director Edouard Deluc that has an expected 2017 release. Most of the filming took place during September and October 2016 on Tahiti’s peninsula in the districts of Teahupo’o and Tautira. Here is an interview with the French star who tells us more about the filming and his experience in French Polynesia.
Is this the first time you have been to Tahiti?
Vincent Cassel: Yes. Before coming, I had lots of clichés about Tahiti running around in my head. I was also very excited due to the ocean and surfing. Obviously, I didn’t accept the role just to come surfing in Tahiti; however, going to a place with magnificent waves was extremely attractive to me. I came to Tahiti without any expectations and I must say, I fell under her spell. What I had heard about the local people is also true. They are all so attentive, kind and very generous. On the peninsula where we were filmomg, I was struck by this special spirit.
Did the setting strike you as well?
It is absolutely unbelievable. I don’t see how anyone can live on this island and not fully experience the sea. It is so wonderful with its lagoons, reefs, reef flats and all the marine life. You can swim with whales and rays. You can see them everywhere. One thing is for sure—I will be back.
You are a surfer?
Yes! Not the greatest, but I love to surf. Anyway, don’t they say that the best surfer is the one who has the best time? I have been lucky to meet great people. They showed me the passes, surfing spots and unique features. Hira Teriinatoofa, Matahi Drollet, Tikanui Smith and the entire Tahitian team that was featured in the film, la Nuit de la Glisse inspired me. It is somewhat of a dream to have access to this Polynesian surfing world and to meet people who are among the best in this discipline.
Let’s talk about Gauguin. What prompted you to accept this role?
I like characters that are somewhat murky. Since the beginning, along with the director, we said we didn’t want to just do a film about an artist. From my perspective as a viewer, a film about an artist is a little boring. During the scenario, we were constantly focused on Gauguin’s history and journey: his anti-conformism, his faith in himself, his will, his desire and his strength to be different. I admire these qualities. Afterwards, a big chunk of the character becomes much darker. He was someone who tended to make a scene. He came across as a rebel, much more virile that he should have been in reality. For me, it was important to allow this part of the character to be, to allow some of the disorder to linger. Gauguin was not a likeable guy. He was powerful. I find it interesting to reveal the strength of such a representative character. The question is to find out where people like him draw their power. It is often within their demons. He believed in what he was doing while no one even paid attention to his art. No one bought his paintings. But he continued to believe in himself. One of his sentences stays with me: “Why do you want me to follow the masters when masters became masters because they didn’t follow anyone?”
He had a very high opinion of himself…
It is the least one can do. Often when people dare to be themselves, they are accused of having too high of an opinion about themselves. The truth is one must have the courage to hold oneself in high esteem. It is often easier to give up and have a lower opinion of oneself.
How did filming in Tahiti go?
I will tell you: this filming went better than any other I have ever experienced. First of all, we are happy with the work we have done. Everyone is satisfied with the shots. The location is charming. The people here are charming. Then there are the fringe benefits. If you are willing to embrace a piece of the Tahitian art of living—and I truly describe it as an art of living—then I believe you can be very happy here. And that is my case, so I am very happy.
Interview compiled by Ludovic Lardière