In the past year, Omar Sy has gone from being a French comedy writer and actor, to a star known internationally for his dramatic performance in The Intouchables. In February of this year Sy won the Cesar Award (France’s Oscar) for Best Actor, beating out a group of actors including his co-star, legendary French actor Francois Cluzet, and Jean Dujardin for The Artist. Since then, The Intouchables has since spent the year playing all over the world, and has become the highest-grossing French film of all time. The Intouchables, from writing and directing team Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, is the story of an unlikely friendship between Philippe, a wealthy quadriplegic (Cluzet), and Driss (Sy), the young man from the projects hired to be his caretaker. While The Intouchables could have easily felt like an after-school special, the filmmakers and cast infuse every scene with so much humanity and humor that The Intouchables is one of the most genuinely heartfelt and uplifting movies of the year. I recently had the chance to correspond with Sy, and talk about crafting such a moving film. Here’s what Sy shared with me about working with an acclaimed French actor (Cluzet), how his own experience in the projects informed the character, and how he found the comedy in tragedy to help create The Intouchables.
Jackson Truax: The Intouchables is one of the highest-grossing films worldwide not in the English language. Why do you think the film resonates so deeply with audiences all over the world?
Omar Sy: I think it is at its core a very simple, human story that transcends culture and politics. Each of us has advantages and disadvantages in our lives, and to see these unlikely people helping one another through it, with warmth and humor, it strikes a chord. In a time when life has become difficult for a lot of people, when they have become very isolated, it’s nice to see a story about triumph and friendship.
JT: This is your third film with co-directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. How has your collaboration with them evolved over the course of making several films?
Sy: When we first worked together many years ago, none of us had done anything. When they asked me if I wanted to act in their first film, I said “I’m not really an actor,” and they said “That’s okay, we’re not really directors.” Now they are amazing directors, and since we have done a few films together, there’s a lot of trust between us.