At a time when the writers' strike is hardening in the United States, Caleb Landry Jones remains one of the few American actors to give interviews. The 33-year-old Texan is keen to promote DogMan, Luc Besson's film announced as the great return of the French director. The actor delivers a remarkable performance as Douglas, a young boy abused by his father, locked in a doghouse, that the love of his animals will save. Paralyzed after yet another aggression and deprived of his legs, he becomes a solitary, complex man, surrounded by thirty dogs who begin to carry out some theft and settling of accounts for their master.
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Winner of the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021 for Nitram, by Australian Justin Kurzel, Caleb Landry Jones has become known to the public with successful films such as The Florida Project, Get Out or 3 Billboards, the panels of revenge. Currently filming director Athina Rachel Tsangari's Harvest, set in a medieval village in England, the actor is pursuing his ambitious projects.
Madame Figaro. – Did you know Luc Besson before the shooting of DogMan?
Caleb Landry Jones. - I knew his films, but not the man. When I discovered him on set, I realized that I had never worked with a director who mastered cinema and his craft so well. The camera didn't leave his shoulder during filming, and everything was very clear in his head. We just had to follow him.
What made you want to accept this film?
I fell in love with my character. This role was a real challenge, and this film allowed Luc Besson to tell his story (Luc Besson confides in his autobiography, Enfant terrible, that his parents cared little about him and that they had offered him a lion as a pet for his 8 months, Editor's note).
How did you prepare for this role?
I came to Paris a month before the start of filming, and Luc had prepared a trip with wolves and other unusual experiences to allow me to get into the skin of Douglas. I also spent a lot of time alone, walking very slowly, and people's reaction helped me define how I played this role.
Is playing in a wheelchair an additional challenge?
I spent a whole day in a wheelchair in Paris, and I realized how terrible this city was for the disabled. What is interesting is to observe people's reaction. Some complain about you, others don't dare to look at you. Luc also introduced me to a doctor he had known on his film Lucy, and we talked about spinal trauma and what it could cause as problems in the nervous system, the body... We also discussed the resilience of some patients, because my character never gives up, Douglas is a strong man.
I like stories that show human contradictions
Caleb Landry Jones
What an experience was it like to shoot with these dozens of dogs?
I grew up surrounded by dogs, and I've always loved animals, so it was great to go on set in the morning and find about thirty dogs. There was a lot of love on this set. It's so easy to work with them, they don't lie.
What are the villain characters that have seduced you in cinema?
What I particularly appreciate is when the heroes deceive us, when you expect something from them and they act the opposite, a bit like the characters of Feydeau or Don Quixote. I like stories that show human contradictions.
What memories do you have of your Best Actor Award at Cannes in 2021?
I was stunned, I remember crying after receiving the award. I didn't expect it, and it was crazy to see Spike Lee. I love his films, especially the first ones. I don't know if this award has had an impact on my career, maybe more directors want to work with me, but I don't feel like I've changed. I'm just looking to be better with each new project.
The first French films I saw were Godard's, I was 17-18 years old, and I had never seen anything like this.
Caleb Landry Jones
What is your view of French cinema?
I think the first French films I saw were Godard's. I remember Bande à part and À bout de souffle, with the scene at the restaurant and the flow of conversations. I was 17-18 years old, and I'd never seen anything like this, I thought, "This is amazing, can we really do this?"
When did you decide to become an actor?
I think I became an actor out of ignorance and stupidity! (Laughter.) I was 19 years old and $5,000 in my pocket when I moved to Los Angeles. I felt that was what I had to do, and it was either that or working as a kitchen clerk. I've wanted to make films for a long time, and the more I shot, the more I understood how engaging and physical this job was, and the more I fell in love with it. I realized how much this space allows us to put everything in us and that there is no right or wrong way to do it, as long as it does not cause harm to anyone. I love this freedom that art, painting, music, everything that allows us to express ourselves, gives us. You don't always need to know what you're doing or why you're doing it, you just have to let go sometimes.
Dogman, by Luc Besson with Caleb Jones, Jones, Jojo T. Gibbs,... Released on September 27.