Matthias Schoenaerts is the toast of France. In March he was named the number one actor to watch in 2012 by Le Figaro, and he is set to tread the red carpet in Cannes with Jacques Audiard’s Rust & Bone. But after a high profile campaign in the USA around Bullhead's Oscar nomination, the limelight doesn't faze him.
‘It's fun, and of course it's really nice to get that kind of recognition,' he says. 'But at the end of the day it doesn't change anything. I think I just need to continue working the way I work. Maybe it will bring some pressure, but I try not to think about these things. But it is amazing to be taking Rust & Bone to the Cannes festival. In general, I'm not too wild about premieres, but this time I really want to be there. I'm going to enjoy the moment like crazy because we worked like crazy on this film.
‘Working with Jacques Audiard is probably the best thing that can happen to an actor. He believes that a film is told through its characters, and if the characters don't exist in the right way then he doesn't have a film. So the biggest part of his work is working with his actors, and he is intense. He's in the moment all the time on set. He really wants his actors to propose something, so that he rediscovers what he has written through his actors, and only then does he start directing.
‘It's a very interactive process. He challenges you, but he wants you to challenge him. It's turbulent and it's intense and it's far from easy. The only way to deal with it is to be really well prepared, because once you are prepared you can let go. You can jump into the moment.
‘After Cannes, in June, I'm off to New York for two weeks to shoot Blood Ties with Guillaume Canet. He wrote the script with James Gray, who made We Own The Night. There's a really strong supporting role – he offered it to me, and it felt right. I still have plans to work in Flanders: I'll be shooting Waste Land, a film by Pieter Van Hees. It's hard to describe: a police relationship drama that's very dark, very noir. As you can see I love dark and edgy stuff! Then there are some other projects coming up that I haven't signed up for yet. And I have a lot of stuff to read from France and the States, so I'll just take my time and see what feels right.’ (i)
As told to Ian Mundell