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Guillaume Canet

French actor/writer/director Guillaume Canet is in Toronto with the world premiere of his follow up to the international hit thriller Tell No One.

Little White Lies, an ensemble comedy-drama about a group of friends who go on a strained holiday together, has a stellar cast including François Cluzet, Marion Cotillard, Benoît Magimel, Gilles Lellouche, Laurent Lafitte and Jean Dujardin. Canet is also at TIFF as an actor in Massy Tadjedin’s closing night film Last Night.

Why is this a film you wanted to make?

There is a part of me in each of the characters. After Tell No One, I had a rough year, I had to resolve some things in my life. At my age [he’s 37 now] you ask yourself many questions about your life, am I doing what I want to do, do I have the life I want to have? I was working a lot, maybe too much, and I wasn’t really enjoying and appreciating life, so that’s how I decided to think about it, and get some distance from everything. And I went on vacation to this place, Cap Ferret, in the southwest of France, and I realized after this summer there that I always wanted to do a movie about friendship.

The Big Chill and those kind of films are an inspiration to me. And I also I realized how much I understood how people were lying to themselves all the time. And how you lie to yourself, how you manage to not say the thing that will hurt someone else, you sweep everything under the carpet. All these subjects were turning in my head and that’s how I started to write the script. It was so much inside of me that I wrote the script in 5 months, it was very quick.

Do you have a close circle of friends like that?

I have, but not exactly those people. A big part of it is fiction for sure. But I have that big group of friends, the kind of friends — some of them there is hidden seduction, some of them there is hidden hate, with trouble in the past.

Was it hard working with such a big cast?

It was weird because they are all my friends, I’ve known them all so long. Some of them for 14 years, or since first grade. I’ve known them a really long time. Sometimes I had to direct them when we were doing some scenes on the beach and they are in a bathing suit or on the boat, and that’s hard to remind them sometimes that we were making a film. So I had a tough role to remind them to focus, and say we are working right now. on the other hand I was asking them all the time to have fun, and enjoy the pleasure to be around this table and to eat and drink.

Did you do a lot of rehearsals?

We shot the movie in the summer, but in May I asked them to come to the house where we were shooting the film. I wanted them to spend three days in this house, feeling the place and using the boat, using the kitchen. I wanted them to remember the place when they were coming back to shoot — they would feel they had already spent years of vacation in that house.

Was there a lot of improvisation?

Most things were written, but some scenes like the table scene I really wanted to try some improvisation because I wanted them to be able to add some life to it. Even if it was really written, they added some things so it could be more realistic.

You could have set the whole film in Paris, but something more interesting happens when people go away on holiday.

Yes, for sure. I wanted them to have this decision to make to leave their friend and that subject of guilt is part of the film. I like this place also with the high tide and the low tide, the set is changing all the time. There is something very psychologically depressing in this low tide.

Like with The Big Chill, the music was used as more than just background.  What inspired the song selections?

I didn’t want any score in this film, I really wanted to get the feeling that we were on vacation with them, and a score would put us into a film. The soundtrack was like a CD that you would have on vacation, and some songs months later the songs remind you of the vacation.

What are you doing next?

I just wrote a script that I adapted with James Gray, that I want to direct next year. It’s called Rivals. I played in the French version of this film [2008’s Les Liens du sang], and I loved the script the first time I read it. I had the idea that I wanted to remake it in the States. So a lot of things in the script we changed.

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