Jean Reno needs little introduction. A Hollywood icon with well over 100+ films to his name, he is best known for his iconic role as the empathetic hitman in “Léon: The Professional.” Most American filmgoers didn’t know who he was prior to the 1994 release of Luc Besson’s legendary film, but Jean Reno had already been lighting up the screen as a César-nominated titan of French cinema for years. In the two-and-a-half decades that followed, Jean Reno’s filmography continued to broaden with comedies, big-budget action pictures, character-driven dramas and beyond. His performances are transformative and earned him a legion of dedicated fans around the globe. At 72 years young, he continues to take on ambitious new projects and stretch himself as an actor. Best of all, he shows no signs of slowing down!
His latest film, “The Doorman,” is no exception. An ex-Marine (Ruby Rose) returns to New York City to start a new chapter in life, but ends up being in the wrong place at the wrong time! Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura, “The Doorman” is a punishing action-thriller starring Rose, as a former Marine turned doorman at a luxury New York City high-rise. When all hell breaks loose, she must outsmart and battle a group of art thieves and their ruthless leader (Jean Reno) while struggling to protect her sister’s family. As the thieves become increasingly desperate and violent, the doorman calls upon her deadly fighting skills to end the showdown.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Jean Reno to discuss his legendary career, creative process and the making of “The Doorman.”
What spoke to you about acting and made you pursue the arts as a career?
It came to me when I was very, very young. I was around 12 years old when I decided to be an actor. We had been studying theater at school and I found that very interesting. It was something that appealed to me very, very early in my life. There was no question to do anything else! It was completely stupid what I said but it is something that is inside of me and maybe some of which I am in conscience. I like that! I like to be an actor and to be able to interpret different things and to do comedies, to do dramas, to do good boys and bad boys.
When did you come into your own as an actor?
It is not something that you have in one day. It is pieces of work that you are happy about. Sometimes you are happy about the character or a moment in the movie or play. It is like a puzzle. It is difficult to be happy with only one piece of what you have done. You put pieces of yourself in each piece of work that you do. If you are honest, you put in what you can at that moment in your life. It is like a big puzzle, in fact, doing plays or movies and including pieces of you along your entire life.
What have you learned from your years in the industry?
I have learned that you need a big ego to come and say, “I am a actor, a singer or musician.” It is very interesting when you learn that everybody has their own talent; actors but non-actors also. You begin to understand that over the course of your life through meeting people. Artist or non-artist, everybody has his own truth inside and you have to listen to everybody. This will help you to be a better actor, in fact.
Your latest project is “The Doorman.” How did this project come onto your radar and what spoke to you about the role?
It came from America. I liked the script because my character has a deep love for painting. Maybe for him it is like a dream for him to have those paintings but the love of the painting will lead you into becoming a bad guy. I decided to do it because of the painting and because I like painters. The painting is an art very high.
Who is an artist whose work really moves you?
There is a French painter that I know named Pierre Soulages. He is 100 years old. He is someone who paints in blue and black. I like his work very much!
What can you tell us about your process for bringing a character to life?
I believe in what is written but also what you feel between the lines of the script that you are reading. The marriage between you as an actor and the character comes from the script. Reading and dreaming about what you are reading and the situation you imagine through the script, slowly but surely, is like a chemical between you and the story. When you learn the lines, you forget the script and then you follow the situation because you have become the character. It is a little bit of a chemical association between you and the material. You also have to follow the director. The director is the witness of that alliance between you and the character.
“The Doorman” is a solid action film. Tell us about working with the talented cast and crew on this project.
This film was done very quickly and compact. “The Doorman” is a film about somebody coming from the past, looking for art but finding action. It is very interesting in that way. I found that Ruby [Rose] was really, really talented; especially in the action scenes where she is very, very believable. She has quite a presence and that is very rare. She is simple, honest and direct and I like that! We had a very compact team on set. The British actor who plays the husband, Ruppert Evans, is very good also. The director, Ryûhei Kitamura, has a very unique approach. I have been to Japan many times and, in Japanese cinema, they have a very unique way of dealing with the rhythm of things. They might slow things down before speeding them up, in fact. He now lives in Los Angeles. I feel the mix of those two influences was very interesting to work with. I think everyone was very compact and together in this movie.
What do you look for in the material you take on these days?
I like to vary. I don’t like to always do exactly the same things. I am in Spain and I am doing a series for Amazon. I play a butler who is chasing an assassin and a thief. In this project, I am teamed with a young girl. The girl is Sherlock Holmes and I am Watson. It is a series of comedy and it’s completely different, so I like that. I like to change the ambiences!
How have you evolved as an actor over the course of your career?
I do not have a preferred piece but I feel I know how to deal with the time of a scene. When you are young, you want to go fast and do the scene very fast. Over time, you learn how to deal with the time and not feel empty even if you are not talking or just watching people on the set. When you act, it is difficult to deal with the time and speed of the scene. I have learned, I think, a little bit about that!
What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?
Being an actor is something very nice. It is something very rich. You have a lot of experiences and emotions. You meet a lot of talents but please don’t forget your family and friends. Don’t forget where you come from!
Thank you for your time today, Jean!
Thank you, sir! Thank you, Jason!
‘The Doorman’ premieres exclusively On Demand and Digital on October 9th. The film hits Blu-ray and DVD on October 13th via Lionsgate Films.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.