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Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2002

Move over, Bruce Willis

Gerard Lanvin is that rare French actor who can do it both ways: be mysterious and suave in a dark suit, or grinningly show off his (tattooed) biceps in a tank top. Two-time winner of the Cesar Award, Lanvin is slated as the next Gerard Depardieu, though he himself feels "one Depardieu is enough. I don't think I can or want to match anyone's career.

News photo
Gerard Lanvin

"I look to the American cinema for inspiration," he says. "Their high level of entertainment has a far greater appeal than what the French can put out. But we're learning to catch up." And catching up is what "Le boulet (The Ball)" is all about. In it, Lanvin plays Moltes, a hardened convict with a soft spot for his comrade/buddy Reggio (played by Belgian comic Benoit Poelvoorde). Moltes breaks out of prison, and together they leave Paris for the Sahara in search of a lotto ticket worth 15 million euros.

For Lanvin, now in his 50s, this was the first time he had starred in a "real, big-budget, action movie." At the French Film Festival in Yokohama, Lanvin talked about "Le boulet," and where he hopes it will take him.

You went through a series of jobs, such as commercial traveler and truck driver, before deciding to become an actor.

Yes, I didn't exactly go looking for it, but a series of coincidences resulted in a screen debut in 1977, as a knight on a white horse [laughs]. This was for the movie "Vous n'aurez pas L'Alsace et la Lorraine." I was quite happy in my life before that, but with acting, I felt this was a profession I could stick to for life.

What do you think is the biggest appeal of "Le boulet?"

It's the closest French approximation to "Lethal Weapon,' which is one of my favorite movie series. I think the buddy action movie is underrated and has much more potential than is given credit for. The French have not experimented with the genre very much, so I jumped at the chance when they offered me the role.

What inspires you about Hollywood action films?

Sheer entertainment value. I mean, it's OK to make a movie about family or love, and the French are very good at depicting these things onscreen. But the fact remains, people in my country love to see, for example, Bruce Willis in action. Or Mel Gibson. They appeal to something very fundamental. And I think good acting is about giving the audience what they want to see. To provide the fundamental kicks.

Will "Le boulet" change the French action movie scene?

I hope so. Fortunately, it was a big hit in France and they're talking about a sequel. It would be wonderful if the Lanvin-Poelvoorde combination sets the trend for an entire series. Because that's my goal as an actor: to become the face that people would want to see, over and over. I want to become the reason for sequels. Otherwise, you know, why bother?

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