Omar Sy is one of the biggest stars in France. You can currently catch him in “Jurassic World” and his latest film “Samba” tackles the issue of immigration in France.
“Samba” reunites “The Intouchables’” acclaimed directors, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, with award-winning actor Omar Sy in a richly entertaining chronicle of an undocumented kitchen worker battling deportation from his adopted home in Paris. When Samba (Sy) is suddenly ordered to leave France, he enlists the help of Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg), an emotionally vulnerable immigration advocate with little experience but plenty of heart. As the immigrant aspiring chef and the burned-out corporate executive tentatively explore an unexpected bond, they inspire each other to reinvent themselves. Read what Omar told us exclusively about the film out this Friday.
Speak about reuniting with Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano?
A: It was like usual, a lot like a party to see again my friends. Another adventure, another big, big subject/issue in France. I love their screenplays. I love their sets and the way we work together. So it was really intense, fun and cool.
Why was this the right project for you guys to reunite on?
A: Because after “The Intouchables” what happened was, there was such a huge wave for us. And we went through a lot of things and after that we realized that we would be watched a lot more. It was the moment for us to talk about something really important and maybe we could teach something to people, especially in France. In France, there is a lot of things that people don’t know, and we thought it was the right time to talk about it. We wanted to talk about this subject before “The Intouchables,” but it wasn’t the right time and they found the story of Phillipe and Driss. This one [“Samba”] was still around and after that it was the right timing. And after “The Intouchables” we needed challenge. For me, as an actor performing as an African guy with an accent, someone far from me and for them creating more drama and a deeper subject. It was a first love story for them and even for me. We wanted to raise the bar and I think “Samba” is the perfect movie, has the perfect subject, perfect character and it was the perfect timing.
How would you describe your creative process? What did you do to prepare for this role?
A: For Samba, the first thing it was … I tried to find in my own story what could be close to the character’s story. I looked back on my father who came from Africa, Senegal. But it was a different time, it was more easy for him. I had to meet some people like Samba who went through that more recently. I spent time with them, we had a chat and I asked a lot of questions like “how do you live?” and “how do you feel when you do that?” We spent time together. I learned a lot about them and their lives. I watched a lot of documentaries and spoke with Eric and Olivier about it. They did a lot of investigations, so we chatted about that. They went to a lot of foundations that help illegal people in France. I just dived in the universe to find special and sometimes little things.
What do you think drew Alice to Samba romantically?
A: I think, between them it’s something, when you look at both of their stories, you find them completely different. They can be like opposites; but I think when they look at each other they are the same and in the same situation. They both want better lives and they both are lonely. I think when Alice looks at Samba she sees the loneliness. Samba wants a better life and he fights for it but he fights for it in a different way. Alice is supposed to have everything and she feels bad and maybe seeing Samba helps her realize how lucky she is.
How was working with Charlotte Gainsbourg?
A: It was really good! It was really fun and really easy and I’m so proud to have a part with her. She is great and a big actress in France. I grew up with Charlotte movies because she started as a young girl, like 13 years old, I was so proud. She is warm and welcoming. I learned from watching her work, in the ways she approaches the character and how she is on set. We had good chemistry. Acting with her was good.
Why do you think a film like “Samba” is important?
A: It is important because you can learn. For me, a good social comedy as we do it in France is good because it is entertaining and you can learn at the same time. That’s how I love movies, entertaining and when you can learn something. I think when you watch “Samba” it is entertaining because it’s funny and there is heart and love but you can also learn about society in France and … who illegal people really are. You can learn a lot of things watching “Samba,” that’s why it’s important for me. That’s also why it was the good movie to make after “The Intouchables.”
Can you speak about all the sacrifices your character makes? Even at the end?
A: That’s what I learned from them. It’s in some ways an African way to live. I grew up like that; in life you make sacrifices. For Samba, it’s all the time. He left his country for a better life for him but also for his mother and his sisters. He left his studies to work in Europe. Even the trip from Africa to Europe is a sacrifice because maybe you can die, maybe you never come to Spain. A lot of people, we saw that, leave Africa and went to Europe, they crossed the sea in a small boat and they die. At the end, it’s really interesting, because even till this day I don’t know if it’s good or not, but that’s life. Even me, after preparing for the movie, acting for the movie and trying to be in Samba’s skin, I can’t decide if it’s good or not, but he did that because maybe he had no choice. The real question is what would you do if you were him? That’s the question. So it’s really interesting. Even me after all of that I can’t tell. That’s why this movie is so interesting, because you see how difficult it is and a lot of people will say “those people” come but what they do is not that easy and they make a lot of sacrifices.
What has it been like to transition from French cinema to Hollywood?
A: The transition was quick. It was very fast and even now I can’t realize how things happened. I went from a thing to another thing and it’s always like that. It’s difficult to look back and I don’t want to. I will do it maybe when I will be 70 or 80 years old, I don’t want to look back, it’s too early!
“Jurassic World” has broken records around the world, reflect on being apart of this groundbreaking film.
A: I’m so proud! Even before the record, just for me, where I come from, being in “Jurassic World,” it was already a success just being in the movie and staying alive was another success! Now the record is just amazing, I’m blessed, I’m happy, I’m proud, and truly happy for Colin Trevorrow because he’s an amazing director and really talented. I’m really happy for Chris Pratt because he’s a great actor and funny guy. And also Bryce, who is amazing in the movie. I’m really happy for them because it’s their movie and for me of course!
Would you like to do a sequel?
A: Of course I want to do it! But it’s not my decision.
Describe Samba in three words.
A: I would say Joy, work and love.
Below are a few photos from a special screening of “Samba” at Paris Theater.
Photo Credit: StarTraks Photo