Untouchable creators Eric Toledano and Olivier Nekache talk to TFR

Untouchable is looking like the unexpected cinematic star of the year. It is touching yet emotional, laugh-out-loud funny and startlingly deep. Check out our review to find out more. TFR caught up with co-writers and directors Eric Toledano and Olivier Nekache, to talk about their masterpiece.

Untouchable is based on a true story, but does the film differ from the real-life events? 

Eric Toledano – We are in fiction so we decided to adapt the story and express our style and sense of comedy. The main situations are true, such as the scene with the cops, for example. Also the fact that Driss connects Philippe to the woman is true because he organized his wedding. We invented the scene at the opera with the tree singing in German – this is all our interpretation. There was no limit to our jokes.

Olivier Neckache – Driss and Philippe lived together for ten years, so we tried to sum it up. We took some of their anecdotes to make something about their lives.

How did you choose Omar Sy to play Driss?

Eric – We wrote the script for Omar. It’s our third movie with him and we knew that one day we’d use him for a main character. He is the best one to represent a guy from the projects and everyone knows him from French TV.

How did you come up with the title ‘Untouchable’?

Eric – There were many reasons and ‘Untouchable’ means many things. When we started this movie everyone said ,“Don’t touch this story,” because they said we couldn’t combine comedy and disability, comedy and immigration. There are also the ‘untouchables’ of the Indian cast system. They live outside the town and are not allowed to live with the others. It is similar with the guy from the projects; we have a separation. Also, when someone has a disability you have to take care of him, feed him and yet there is something you don’t want to touch. Both men are crossing the line of convention and that makes them totally untouchable for us.

The relationship between Philippe and Driss is very close and there is a good dynamic on screen. Was it the same with François and Omar during filming?

Eric – Everyone who meets Omar immediately falls in love with him and that’s what happened to François. Omar is very humble and knows how to respect people. He has ten brothers and sisters, and grew up in the projects far from Paris. Because he didn’t go to drama school, he is very spontaneous and natural. When François felt that, he was really excited. You tell Omar to play out a situation and he just lives it.

His dancing is amazing…

Eric – Yes. We did it in one shot. Omar said no rehearsal, just put the music on and let me go.

One thing that Philippe and Driss have in common is music, although they both have different tastes. Which do you prefer, Vivaldi or Earth, Wind and Fire?

Olivier – We are very big fans of Earth, Wind and Fire. They had a tour in France and it says on the poster ‘The Music of Untouchable’. We are now waiting for the concert of Vivaldi. We were looking for a common language between the two guys and music was very good because you can talk about it and understand who is who.

You make good use of humour in the film – tell us about that…

Olivier – In this movie, you are close to the darkness and suffering. As rich as Philippe is, he cannot avoid that. Driss has no future because  it is hard to grow up in this kind of neighbourhood. We were thinking about emotion, both dark and joyous. Sometimes you are in a dark place and need to joke. For us, this is the function of humour: to help you take a step back form the situation. The relationship between Philippe and Driss is wonderful, because Driss can pick him up from a bad situation by making him laugh.

What did Philippe think of the first screening?

Olivier – It was a great moment for us. Philippe watched it with his new wife and his family. He laughed and at the end and we saw tears in his eyes. He said, “I stand up and I clap my hands”. He wanted us to cross the line and he wanted us to make people laugh with his story, because people like him want this. If the brain works, everything works and they want to talk and discuss.

Do you have a favourite part of the movie?

Olivier – For me, it’s when Driss is shaving Philippe’s beard off. We wanted to create deep scenes with laughter in them – it’s like a rollercoaster of emotions.

Eric – I liked when Driss danced during Philippe’s birthday party. The symbol is so great for me. He is so free, easy and moving. Also, the coffee shop at night where Philippe shares his story with Driss. This is the turning point of the story.

In the UK, we’ve just had the Paralympics. There’s a whole new perception if disability, do you feel this ties in with the film?

Eric – Yes. We’re very curious about the audience reaction here for this reason and the fact that we have a big respect for the English culture. We are fans of Ricky Gervais’ Extras, for example, as he crosses the line in a different way. We like this kind of humour – Sacha Barren Cohen and Monty Python, as well as the romantic and social comedy of England.

What are your thoughts on the proposed re-make?

Eric – At first we were happy. Now we have toured the world and seen it is possible to reach the audience with this movie, we did the job. So we understand, but only for one market: the United States. If I was the director of the new movie, it would be a big challenge. We have to respect the fact that if they think it’s a good idea, then it’s okay for them. We loved the movie that we did.

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Untouchable creators Eric Toledano and Olivier Nekache talk to TFR, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating