One stinkingly hot night during the Parisian summer I was walking along the rue de la Folie Mericourt in the hip eleventh arrondissement and heard the booming voice of Vincent Lacoste. He was seated casually outside a downbeat bar and was talking about remakes.
“Oh yes, ha ha ha! I’m always talking about movies,” the cherub-faced 26 year-old admits in our subsequent interview. “Yes, I love to go to bars in my neighbourhood. I have a life, but I stay home sometimes.”
He likes to work a lot too, when he is offered “good parts in strong projects. I have a luxury in that regard.”
Indeed, Lacoste has been the constant star of French movies, since he started out by winning praise as a newcomer in French Kissers at the age of 15.
A natural comedian, he has worked with Gerard Depardieu on Saint Amour and Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia and has just made a third film with the French behemoth. They make a great double-act.
While of late he has been trying his hand at dramas – last year in the wonderful Amanda (where he had to take charge of his plucky niece in the eleventh arrondissement after his sister was killed in the terror attacks which happened there), he now has two films featured in the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival.
In Christophe Honore’s Room 212, he plays second fiddle to Chiara Mastroianni, while he stars in My Days of Glory, which thankfully is funnier. The debut Woody Allen-esque feature from writer-director Antoine de Bary, who adapts his Cannes prize-winning short, it’s the last in a run of films (After Sorry Angel, Amanda, The Freshman and Father and Sons) where Lacoste plays a lovable loser.
His Adrien character is a former child actor who is having little success in his adult career and in his life. He’s been evicted from his Paris flat and moves in with his soon-to-be-divorced parents (Emmanuelle Devos and an hilarious Christopher Lambert) and struggles in his romantic life too, thanks to erectile dysfunction. Even when his career starts to take off as he is cast as the young Charles de Gaulle in a biopic, he can’t get his act together.
What was the appeal of My Days of Glory?
The director is a friend. I appeared in his short film and it’s kind of the same story. I liked this idea of a grown-up man who is stuck in his childhood and can’t grow up, but who in the end still has a chance to become a man. It’s like a story about depression but it’s told in a comedic way.
He also suffers from performance anxiety.
It’s a movie about that too, but it’s more about the neurosis of men today and the expectations society has for them to be powerful, successful, virile and in good shape. A lot of men aren’t like that, so it was interesting for me to portray masculinity in a more sensitive way.
There are a lot of child stars who don’t experience adult success like your character.
There’s a lot of pressure to be successful in the film industry. You can be chosen and then thrown away for no reason. I’m kind of anxious about it because I hope to be an actor for a long time. I hope people keep offering me parts because I can’t do anything else. It’s an actor’s fear that it will not go on forever.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Paris, I’m a real Parisian, from the seventeenth arrondissement, Place de Clichy. When I was young, I was watching 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut’s directing debut starring Jean-Pierre Leaud) which was set in Place de Clichy and I was like ‘yeah, that’s a cool movie’.
You have a lot of charm that you bring to your characters. Where does it come from?
I don’t know how it happened but ha ha ha!
How about your sense of humour?
My grandfather was a farmer near Lourdes and my mother grew up in this big house with a big family. There were lots of generations coming together with a lot of humour. They were bon vivants drinking wine, eating cheese and people from the neighbourhood would come over.
Did you ever see the Virgin Mary?
No unfortunately not. (He’s not a Catholic.)
You’re known for comedies.
I love comedy. Most of the movies offered to me were comedies in the beginning and in recent years I wanted to try dramatic movies, but I think I prefer comedy. Even in drama, I like to make jokes sometimes, otherwise I’m a little bored.
You’re a natural fit with Depardieu.
Yeah, I just shot another film with him. It’s a period drama adapted from Balzac’s novel Lost Illusions and I think it’s going to be big. It’s by Xavier Giannoli [Marguerite], a great director. Gerard was really funny as always, really crazy.
Were you intimidated when you first met him?
Yes. When I first met him, I was struck by how big he was, and he has these two little eyes and he’s peering at you. He has a huge personality and you learn a lot of things when you work with him. He doesn’t give advice; you just have to watch him. In his trailer, he has cheese and ham from Italy, so I was never hungry. That was a good way of working! He keeps telling me I’m too skinny.
Did he influence you to stay normal?
I don’t know if he’s a normal guy. I would say a lot of things, but not that he’s normal. Otherwise he’s the only normal person in the entire world, ha ha ha!
He’s not like other actors; he doesn’t see things the same way as other people. He’s not scared about being beautiful, he’s not scared of being good or not – he just doesn’t care. “Oh come on!” Gerard is a legend with nothing to prove. Me, I want to prove things to myself. I want to make good movies and otherwise to eat good food and drink good wine and see my friends.