A woman put up her hand and said how much she had enjoyed the film, that she was back to see it a second time.
“Thank you very much,” said Boon, translating her comments into English, then joked : “And that by the way, that is my sister.”
Even when just uttering a few words by way of presentation of a film, Boon still has something of the air, passion and techniques of a stand-up comedian, which is how he began in the entertainment business.
Boon’s fifth feature as a director – he pronounced “fifth” in perfect English, showing the benefits of having established his base in Los Angeles with wife Yael Boon – “Raid, Special Unit” is perhaps inevitably a comedy. It currently rates as very possibly the best received of all big new comedies at this year’s UniFrance Rendez-Vous market, eliciting laughs and final applause as its credits rolled from an audience of foreign distributors at its Paris market premiere.
“Raid: Special Unit” opens Feb. 1 in France In the screen trade, nobody knows anything, William Goldman once famously maintained. That said, it would be a huge surprise, after Boon’s first four films have earned around $250 million in France, if “Raid: Special Unit” were not one of the biggest French titles of the year. Produced by Pathé chief exec Jerome Seydoux and Boon, written by Boon and Sarah Kaminsky, and distributed and sold by Pathé, “Raid: Special Unit” has Boon playing Eugène Froissard, a misogynist elite police operative at France’s RAID, the country’s real-life elite law enforcement unit of the French National Police, who is saddled with, of all indignities, a woman trainee, Johanna Pasquali (Alice Pol) who, to make things worse, is a rookie uber-klutz, though the daughter of France’s Minister of the Interior.
Since his wife left him for his brother, Froissard seems jinxed by bad luck. Together, this odd couple have to frustrate the spectacular armed heists in Paris of Serbia’s Leopard Gang. They end up having to try to pretty much save the world.
Interviewed in Paris by Variety, Boon talked about his deep respect for France’s real-life RAID operatives, why he likes to be funny, his work as a producer, and his next film, “Une Jolie Ch’tite Famille.”
“Raid, Special Unit” is dedicated to the men and women who risk their lives saving others. Was it at all influenced by the Charlie Hebdo attack, or following terrorist outrages in France?
I had the idea for the movie almost 10 years ago. At first, I was going to play Alice’s role, but it was just an idea so I wrote a few ideas and a treatment but needed something stronger. I directed “Superchondriac” with Alice Pol. She can be beautiful and also very funny, and I thought it would be much better to have a woman who is a cop working in a very quiet neighborhood of Paris who wants to see real action, be heroic really serve her country. The first step was to meet with the head of France’s RAID, the equivalent of SWAT, which I did in June 2014, when RAID had just under 200 cops and three were women. I spent a lot of time with them and was so impressed. They are looking for agents between 30 and 50 who have something to lose. A family, kids, bot people with a death wish. They are really courageous, smart, humble, know the risks they’re taking. I was with them actually when the Charlie Hebdo
and the Hyper Cacher superette attacks took place. Some of them were wounded and came back to work two-to-three weeks later without saying anything or acting like heroes.
You were shooting in Brussels when the attack happened?
Yes, Paris and Brussels. Some reports said we were at the airport which was wrong. They said also that I left the country with my wife and kids right away which was crazy.
You stayed in Brussels and continued to shoot?
Yes, though I changed the end of the movie because of the attacks. The end was supposed to take place on a boat on the Seine, but new regulation prohibited actors shooting in Paris disguised as SWAT operatives. After the attacks, it became all the more important to me to show the real life of the RAID operatives. I screened the movie to the whole RAID team, so it was probably the movie screening with the secutity in the world . They told me it was realistic and accurate.
“Raid: Special Unit” has several action scenes. You had a small chase scene in “Nothing to Declare.” But did you want seek new ambitions with your movies?
The action scenes are required by the story though to tell the truth when I was shooting at the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, built by Nicolas Fouquet, I was suddenly surrounded by a 200-person crew and thought ‘My God, I’m a comedian. How did I get myself into this? but the views were marvellous. We have the film’s villain, dressed up as Louis XIV walking down exactly the same approach taken by the real Louis XIV which made him so jealous of Bouquet that he determined to imprison him, take his landscape gardener and build Versailles.
In a lot of your films, your characters suffers trauma. Your character, Eugene, seems to suffer Post Traumatic Woman Disorder. Where does this come from?
From me, I think. I fixed my traumas but am pretty Post Traumatic with the fact of making people laugh. I love making people laugh. When I was a kid, I made my mother laugh because she was a little depressed and had a complicated life because we were poor. I was not like Zola but almost. To laugh was the answer, the cure and I think it comes from that.
You’ve been living in Los Angeles, I believe. Are you planning an English-language movie? Why not? I was supposed to be making a movie with Fox [“The Ambassadors”] but then the head of the studio changed and the project was put on hold. But I have a project I’ll take an executive producer credit with Dean Nichols and Yael Boon, my wife, at the company we’ve created together, DYD 26 Entertainment, on “Escobar,” with Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz.
And in France?
In France, I am shooting a movie this summer as its writer-director-actor, which is “Une Jolie Ch’tite Famille,” I don’t like sequels or prequels. I am a big fan of Gérard Oury (“La Grande Vadrouille”) whe never did any sequel or prequels so I like to start the story from scratch. It takes place in the North of France and Paris. It will mark the 10th anniversary of “Welcome to the Sticks,” which came out in 2008. The new project, like “Raid: Special Unit,” is written with Sara Kaminsky. I play the son of a family. My mother, who is celebrating her 80th birthday, comes from the North of France to Paris to celebrate her birthday. But I am ashamed of my origins so I haven’t told people I’m from there and speak with a weird accent.