Christian Clavier: the French Cult Comedian at the Soho Theatre

He might not be as well known to non French audiences as his co-stars Gérard Depardieu (Obelix and Asterix) and Jean Reno (Les Visiteurs), but in France, actor Christian Clavier (61) is a bit of a legend. The only French actor -alongside actor Bourvil- to have featured in more than three films reaching over ten millions entries each at the French box office, he is famous for his cult roles in some of the most popular comedies in his country. A London resident for the past year, he is playing at the Soho Theatre from 13th to 22nd of June, in Address Unknown, a stage adaptation of the text published in 1938 by Kathrine Kressman Taylor. This call to arms against nazism takes the form of an exchange of letters dated 1932 to 1934 between an American Jew and his German friend. Chic-Londres met Christain Clavier in May at the French Institute to discuss his career and latest project.

What has attracted you in this play? It broaches some very tragic events, and is full of suspense and intrigue, which makes it very pleasant to watch, despite its rather dramatic subject. I also like the fact that this book was written by an FBI agent, who knew a lot about what was actually happening in Germany at the time of the events she relates. And while her book was successful enough to be adapted on screen in 1944, it then fall into oblivion, until it was recently adapted on stage in France, where it has been very successful. The fact that I produced this play in collaboration with an English theatre also gives the audience the possibility to see it both in French with French actors and in English with English actors, which I think is an interesting experiment.

Does the choice of playing and producing a drama marks a change of direction for you? I am too old to change direction now! Beside, I’ve already played parts in dramas, such as in Napoléon and Les Misérables, so it’s not a complete novelty for me. If anything, I try to keep one rule, which is never to bore the public. Obviously, I still prefer comedies and I believe that’s what I’m the best at, but if I can play interesting parts in dramas, then I’m quite happy too.

What do you think of your new London life? I find London very exciting, especially from a cultural point of view. I’ve always loved to visit this city, either to buy the rights to new plays or see shows. And I’m definitely not disappointed now that I live here. There’s so much tolerance and so much energy, which makes it in that regard quite similar to New York.

Do you miss Paris? No, if only because I have to go back there regularly… But in any case, the reason I left was to escape the excessive level of attention I had there. Here, I can live a much more peaceful and normal life than in Paris. I’m able to take the tube or the bus without being noticed, which I actually really enjoy.

Who are your screen idols? I was very inspired when I started my career by the duo formed by Peter Sellers et Blake Edwards and was also very impressed by Italian directors like Fellini et Risi. On the French side, I have a huge admiration for actors from the 60s and 70s such as Belmondo, Lino Ventura, Poiret, Serraut, Francis Blanche or De Funès.

Amongst all your films, which one do you prefer? I’m feeling particularly affectionate towards Les Visiteurs, if only because I had so much fun filming it. I’m currently co-writing with director Jean-Marie Poiré the third instalment, which will take place during the French Revolution, which gives me many occasions to have a good laugh…

Unknown at this Address, Soho Theatre (W1) 13-22 June 2013, 7pm (matinée 2pm Saturday), £17.50-25 (£10 for under 26)