The most impactful love story for me in cinema is Paris, Texas.

Karim Leklou

Interviewed by Louis Lepron

Directed by Aurelien Beker and photographed by India Lange

Karim Leklou has something enigmatic about him. A mystery and depth that have allowed him to shine in numerous films, from the epic "Le Monde est à toi" to the gritty "Bac Nord." Now, he takes the lead in "Vincent doit mourir," a film at the crossroads of genres, much like its lead actor. Directed by Stéphan Castang, the film tells the story of Vincent, an ordinary guy. Overnight, people target him and are determined to kill him. Karim Leklou shared with us a cinema story like no other and his future projects.


Ever : How did you hear about the "Vincent doit mourir" project ?

Karim Leklou : The producers initially informed me about it. They then suggested that I meet the director, Stéphan Castang. In our discussions, I really connected with him. Later, he made adjustments to the script, and I felt it was taking shape in a blend of genres that I really liked. The film didn't want to aestheticize violence; it had a dose of humor, second degree, and burlesque that would mix genres, whether it's paranoid thriller or zombie film.

Set in a pre-apocalyptic context, it echoed our current reality. Strangely, even though there was a touch of fantasy, this fantasy could be close to reality. The last thing that motivated me was the presence of Vimala Pons, who plays Margaux. I really wanted to work with her."

Ever : Did you know her work ?

Karim Leklou : I knew her work on screen, and I had seen her latest performance. She's an actress who deeply moves me. She has a lot of potential, and I felt that cinema had only explored a tiny part of it. She has often been used for physicality and comedy, and here I felt that 'Vincent veut mourir' tapped into a vulnerability we sensed in her, a kind of melancholy. She's a tremendous actress, one of the best French actresses.

Ever : Vimala Pons plays an important character in Vincent's journey. How was your working relationship established before filming ?

Karim Leklou : We met on set. It was the director's decision to maintain a certain freshness within the framework of a real staging setup. Concretely, our first face-to-face took place during rehearsals involving physicality, especially during the stunts.

What I loved about the encounter between Vincent and Margaux was the delicacy offered by Stéphane. Normally in cinema, when a 'first time' is depicted, it's always with fireworks. Here, these are bodies that don't know each other. All this awkwardness, I found that it brought a lot of tenderness, essential to the film. In the end, it's the story of two castaways trying to live together in a mad world. It interested me because, for me, the greatest love story that touched me in cinema is 'Paris, Texas.' It's incredibly tough. From this toughness emerges a new beauty. There's also the question of gaze in this film. Hence my desire to play in 'Vincent Must Die': it's a story close to the world we live in. So, we initially worked on the body to avoid intellectualizing the subsequent scenes."



Ever : Was the first day of shooting in line with this intention ?

Karim Leklou : The very first day of shooting, I get hit by a PC in the face. This scene where an intern throws his computer at me, it's both a violence that uses burlesque, comedy, but tells a type of very real violence, here in the corporate world, and gains density as the film progresses.

We unfolded this week that takes place in the office, and then came a scene that changed the density of violence, the septic tank scene. It's an important change for the character: Vincent knows he's going to have to defend himself. It's also the metaphor of two people literally in the shit and having to do everything to survive on each other. This scene shows that with cinema, you surpass yourself. When there's a cinematic device that helps an actor, and when you work in total trust with the director, you exceed yourself. With this difficulty, with the body we have. The idea was to tell action scenes but with everyday bodies, not bodies like Jason Statham's. Because in reality, Jason doesn't hang out in bars at two in the morning; he's at the gym. We, potentially, were more interested in people in a bar who would fight around midnight.

Ever : And who hurt their wrist with the first punch thrown.

Karim Leklou : Yes, that's it! People who fight dirty, who slap each other. This dimension of the dirtiness of the fights also tells the non-aestheticization of violence in « Vincent doit mourir ».

Ever : Eight weeks of filming, a dozen fights: when you read the script, weren't you afraid of the intensity you would have to bring?

Karim Leklou : The first objective was to stay alive (laughs). Especially the septic tank scene. Even though everything is regulated, I played it from A to Z. It was physically the toughest scene of my acting career.

The luck was also that we filmed mostly in order to have a sort of continuity. What Stéphan and I said was that I should be like the character, like a blank page, an ordinary man content with himself who has never been violent, who is neither sympathetic nor particularly mean. Through his downgrade, I had to go through this adventure like him. There inevitably came a physical fatigue that helped me experience the same thing as him. Throughout the film, there's this taboo violence that runs through our society. Whether it's in the workplace, directed at women, children, or psychological."

Ever : How did you gradually develop this rage, this violence within you, for the escalating needs of the script ? 

Karim Leklou : All the preparation before filming allowed that; everything was marked out, and I threw myself into it eagerly. After the rehearsals, it was time to dance on set. Every time a character had to dance with me, I never refused a dance, and I told them they wouldn't be the last to dance. 'And the next ones!



Ever : Especially the two children in the hallway!

Karim Leklou : Oh, that was fantastic. We're right in the idea of taboo. 

Ever : Everything was highly choreographed, I imagine.

Karim Leklou : Certainly! What we liked was this violence where I would insult this kid in a straightforward way. That was all the work between the fight choreographer Emmanuel Lanzi and Stephan. The idea they implemented was to unsettle the stuntmen so they could adapt to my body, especially.

Ever : Vimala Pons, she comes in the middle of filming like the film.

Karim Leklou : I loved working with her. She's a precious actress, and sometimes you didn't know exactly where she was going to take you. I liked that it went through the body and not necessarily through speech.

Ever : "I chose Karim Leklou because he can be gentle and brutal, frightening and of great beauty," says Stéphan Castang about you. Do you agree ?

Karim Leklou : I avoid having an analytical perspective on myself. What interests me above all is working in harmony with a director. With Stéphan, we talked a lot about the script, the dialogues, the stunts. I like to do this before shooting. If there's a change to be made, it can't happen during filming but before, around a table with the director. We are in symbiosis with the director, and when we get to the set, we go in the same direction. It allows me not to think about all these questions, without, however, being unaware during filming. The more you work transparently, as a team, the better it goes. Cinema is a collective art; it's not just the actor's work or glorification.

Ever : In 2023, you participated in a big project, recently wrapped up filming, "L'amour ouf" by Gilles Lellouche.

Karim Leklou : I play the father of François Civil, who plays Clotaire. When Gilles Lellouche called me to say I was going to play François's father, there was a three-second silence. And then he specified that it was at a different time when François Civil's character is younger (laughs). I loved the idea. What I liked a lot about this role, in a few scenes, is how it describes the working-class environment and the difficulty of not having the right words, of not speaking. It says a lot about Clotaire's upbringing, and there's a form of tenderness and harshness in life that is very present. You feel that he is a loving and overwhelmed father, but it's in his flesh. Without any misery. I was touched that Gilles thought of me, and to tell the working-class story in this way. He offered me to act with Élodie Bouchez, an actress I greatly admire. Everything happens in the gaze, the silence, the resignation. How things exist without being said.

Ever : Is there a family atmosphere on Gilles Lellouche's set ?

Karim Leklou : Absolutely. What's great with Gilles is that he is not only a great director who doesn't neglect any actor; he gives everything to his actors. He is very generous with them and manages to create camaraderie on screen. All the actors in his film will say that time passes too quickly.

Ever : How would you describe "L'amour ouf" ?

Karim Leklou : "L'amour ouf" is a beautiful love film that crosses genres with an incredible cast. There were big ambitions for direction, which I recognized in relation to similarly ambitious films I had participated in, like "Bac Nord" or "Le Monde est à toi." There was also a very British, beautiful, and tough aspect, without being in social cinema, but without ignoring the social context either.


Ever : You also participated in "Le Roman de Jim." How did that go ?

Karim Leklou : I loved making this film. It's a meeting, a strange meeting. It's almost improbable that I find myself working with the Larrieu brothers. The film is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Pierric Bailly. It talks about the paternity of a father, Aymeric, who is not the biological father, and the love one can have for their child even when they are not their progenitor. 

It's a political act in the sense that Aymeric's character is completely kind. I say this because generally, in movies, the kind characters don't have the lead role. They are put on the side. Here, he is at the center, and the film is of great beauty, and their direction is very refined. I loved making this film because it questions the intimate, the relationship with others, women, children. It also shows the sensitivity of a man, without effects, without artifice. 

I worked with Laetitia Dosch, who is a powerhouse, ultra-focused, and all I wanted was to dive in with her. And the Larrieu brothers, they are two true intellectuals, but without wrapping paper, just the packaging (laughs). But it's very concrete. I find their passion for cinema quite amazing.

Ever : What are the future projects you can tell us about ?

Karim Leklou : I'm finishing the third season of "Hippocrate," and I'm going to play a small role in Antonin Baudry's film about De Gaulle. It's a historical film, a bit dusted off, not tender with geopolitical relations. As for other projects, as long as they're not done, I don't talk about them, but I hope to soon have the pleasure of reuniting with Anthony Bajon for his first film as a director.

Ever : I'll ask you a few quick pop culture questions. Ready? Who's your current musical artist?

Karim Leklou : Théo Cholbi, with his band SÜEÜR. Right now, I'm also in an 80s phase, and I listen a lot to David Bowie or old rap compilations I had when I was young, like Cut Killer's Hip Hop Soul Party Volume 2.

Ever : One or several recent films that impressed you?

Karim Leklou : "La bête dans la jungle" with Anaïs Demoustier and also "Un métier sérieux" and "Le Règne animal."

Ever : A film you rediscovered ?

Karim Leklou : "Paris, Texas." I harassed Gilles Lellouche to watch it, without even knowing if he had seen it (laughs). It's an incredibly beautiful film. I would also mention "L'aveu" by Costa-Gavras, with Simone Signoret and Yves Montand. It's very powerful, of great complexity.

Ever : A book you're currently reading?

Karim Leklou : "En marge" by Jean-Michel Correia, a beautiful reflection on being on the margins of "normalcy" and a very nice autobiographical story. Also, "Des souris et des hommes" by Steinbeck. It has everything; it's a book you must read because it has the interlineation. It's a short book but says a lot with few words, as Joseph Kessel said. It's a book that should be read by actors.

Ever : To finish and return to "Vincent doit mourir," if you had to mention 3 films about violence that marked you?

Karim Leklou : I come back to "Paris, Texas," which raises the question of perception. "This is England" because it's seen through the eyes of a child. "Moi, Daniel Blake" on social violence: I didn't come out of it unscathed. Also, there's "La Haine" by Mathieu Kassovitz, the work of Gaspar Noé, Romain Gavras, in different styles. And also two absolute masterpieces: "Apocalypse Now" by Francis Ford Coppola and "La Porte du paradis" by Michael Cimino.







Credits :

Stylism — Marie Cheiakh @siwarcheiakh
Groomer —  Mathieu Laudrel @mathieulaudrel


contact us — contact@ever.paris




Strategy never works with me