Tahar Rahim: “You build your career like your house: floor by floor”

We find Tahar Rahim on the phone, rested at finally being able to speak French, harassed but considerate. In the background, a strange melody, like enchanting sirens: howler monkeys feast, in an Edenic jungle, where, he admits, “trees grow on trees”. Coiled in a cord of abundance, in the heart of the Mexican forest, it spins Mrs. Webbstudio juggernaut Marvelwhere he shares the bill with Dakota Johnson (seen in Fifty Shades of grey) and Sydney Sweeney, head of the series Euphoria. For this role, more than ever, he “puts on his dreamy child pajamas”. A figurine straight out of the toy box, he savors the prodigality of the major studios, aware that his passion is a blessing: “I would never have come here without the cinema, which magnifies these mythical places. Earlier, I was at the edge of a waterfall forty meters high. I practice my passion as a tourist. It’s insane, I’m having fun!”.

Whether in the depths of the jungle or in the autumnal New York morning where, dressed in brown leather, he seems to defy the skyscrapers, Tahar Rahim navigates like a tightrope walker in America bigger than life. Before Marvel, there was Ridley Scott, legendary director of blade runner Where Alien, and his version of Napoleon, with Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. Tahar Rahim plays Paul Barras, an unknown figure who set foot in the stirrup for the future emperor. From the shoot, he keeps the exhilarating memory of these “cameras everywhere, some even implanted directly in the set”, and where “you have to play the scene several times in your head before entering, because at Ridley Scott, there is no has only two sockets”. The big Hollywood machine might scare him; on the contrary, one senses him in absolute confidence, sure of his choices and their consequences.

Because since the dazzling success ofA prophet of Jacques Audiard in 2009, the native of Belfort painstakingly climbed the ladder of a national then international career, a hard worker but concerned to preserve his moral and mental balance: “Before, I had a somewhat obsessive passion, which could hurt, be counterproductive. Now, I like to take the time for things. I need brain and instinct to come together. Time has also imposed itself on me, because this journey involves ‘no’s rather than ‘yes’, which slows down – it recovers – which makes the process take its time. You build your career like your house: floor by floor. I was not ready for the United States ten years ago. I had to work, have self-confidence, learn a language, tame a culture, a territory. I said no a lot, and all of a sudden I received the scripts of The LoomingTower and Mary Magdalene the same day. It was time to get started”.

Head and legs. Risk taking and caution. Modernity and heritage, too, when he enjoys going up the current of the classics in Don Juan by Serge Bozon, presented this year at walking sticks, where he runs after the love of Virginie Efira. In this sung film, of a superb dramatic intensity, it radiates, fragile and overwhelming. To embody this actor in distress, left by his wife on his wedding day, and who seeks her everywhere, he evolves, pathetic, toxic and yet always touching, in the depths of the human soul. The sorrow of love, universal, then takes on its face, its voice strangled by emotion. “We had to try to understand this man, to play devil’s advocate. The box of reality passed by this acceptance: it is an actor in full confusion. I have also been able to go through this phase in the past, I have learned lessons from it. This buried feeling, I invoked it to play this actor who cannot manage to be a man”.

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Tahar Rahim: “You build your career like your house: floor by floor”