Olivier Nakache and his co-writer/co-director Eric Toledano discovered their latest project “The Intouchables” while watching a documentary about a true story 10 years ago.
“It was a shock for us,” Nakache said during a recent interview with ovalpike.com. “We felt that this story deserved a movie. We thought we had touched on something special with this movie from the beginning and its success has made me feel even stronger about it.”
In “The Intouchables,” which opens June 1 exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5, François Cluzet portrays Philippe Pozzo di Borgo – an aristocrat who, after becoming a quadriplegic from a paragliding accident, hires a young man from the projects named Abdel “Driss” Yasmin (Omar Sy) to be his caretaker.
“We met with Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and spoke with him for 2 days,” Nakache explained. “That was enough for us. We did not meet with Abdel (“Driss”) Yasmin until after shooting the film. François Cluzet met with Philippe but Omar Sy did not meet with Abdel either. Omar wanted to create his own character.”
Pozzo di Borgo and Yasmin followed the process of the movie and were even the guests of honor during the film’s first screening. Nakache notes that the day of said screening was a great day for “The Intouchables.” Pozzo di Borgo and Yasmin granted their approval and support of the movie – a moving moment for Nakache and Toledano.
“Eric Toledano and I have become brothers because we have worked together for 15 years,” Nakache added. “We are totally different people but somehow the chemistry works. I do not know how it does. We are terribly complimentary. And the important point is that we like to write together. I cannot imagine writing alone.”
Much to Nakache’s surprise, ticket sales for “The Intouchables” passed those of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” in Germany. Nakache jokes that a brief gag about Adolf Hitler’s mustache may have been a contributing factor but, in all seriousness, the story has been similar in several other territories around the world.
“It is amazing,” Nakache said. “We thought that the movie was typically French but, as it turns out, the movie is very universal. Our capital point was to stay light because, with this story, it is very easy to be cheesy. We wanted to use a special tone – cynical humor – and surprise the audience with love. We wanted to make it a like a roller coaster of emotion.”
Nakache hopes that the surprises will continue here in the U.S., where Harvey Weinstein is not only releasing “The Intouchables” but remaking it as well. Nakache’s advises to avoid being cheesy and to stay true to the spirit of the story of the two men. Paul Feig has expressed an interest in directing the project with Colin Firth tentatively attached to portray Pozzo di Borgo.
“Meryl Streep is going to play [Driss],” Nakache joked. “She can do anything.”
“The Intouchables” (R – 112 minutes) opens June 1 exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. Visit FirstLook.com for specific showtimes.