'Unfaithful' - Olivier Martinez Interview

"I consider this a miracle because it wasn't written for a French actor"

Olivier Martinez
20th Century Fox

In Unfaithful, Olivier Martinez plays Paul, the man who turns Connie Sumners' (Diane Lane) head and leads her down an irresistible, dangerous path of infidelity and deceit. The character of Paul wasn't originally conceived as being French, however director Adrian Lyne felt instinctively that Martinez was perfect for the part.

"Olivier has a nice sense of humor. The fact that he's French adds another layer, too. The most ordinary, mundane things are far more interesting when you watch them from a French or Italian or Latin person: the gestures; the sense of humor, are all so different and fascinating to watch. I think it helps one understand how Connie might have leapt into this affair - he's very beguiling, doing even ordinary things," says Lyne.


How did you go about trying out for this film?
The thing that was nice about this American project is that they gave the chance for just about everybody around to read for the role, just in case. That's good because you read for a role and sometimes a miracle can happen. I consider this a miracle because it wasn't written for a French actor. I just sent a tape from Paris and the amazing story happened. Usually when you send a tape they never see it - and they did see it.

Do you feel like you are the leading man in this?
I don't know if I feel that. I don't consider myself like that. Leading or not leading, I just try to get the good parts, the most interesting parts that I can have, and do my best. I have no idea on the impact of what I can do. And by the way, when I see me, as with most of the actors - that's why I never go to see the dailies - I can't see me. I'm not a good judge for myself. I'm very smart for the others but for myself, it's impossible. I can see if I'm very bad.

Were you uncomfortable doing the sex scenes?
I was not very comfortable. I always say I'm not very comfortable in love scenes because I'm shy, because I don't play naked. It's very rare for a French actor. I have an issue with that. But as I've said, when I punch somebody in a movie, I don't do it for real. [It's] the art of lying and we try to lie very well, in our love scenes also.

Did Diane help you a lot with those scenes?
In the sex scenes specifically, no - in general, yes. She was very nice and she was very frank. All the team was very nice. We were like a theatre group, I think, with a lot of respect and a lot of working together, really. I was impressed by the director's ability to listen. It's a great example for me. I worked before with Marcello Mastroianni and these kinds of people and they worked the same. They were very humble in their work. I think great actors are very calmed down on the set. They are not like you read sometimes in magazines. I never saw that, this kind of behaviors of people who think they are better.

This role wasn't written for a French actor. Was anything changed once you were cast?
A few things, but basically it was like that. Me, I changed one or two things in the movie. I asked if we could change and Adrian agreed with that, but very few things.

What sort of things did you ask to change?
In the dialogue, and the way to approach the scene. You have a scene in the movie where he doesn't really know her and he starts to seduce her, while she is reading the braille book. The story that was invented before was much more sensual, erotic and clear. I think it was kind of vulgar, when you don't know a woman, to come to her and start to mention sexuality when the sexuality is already there in the air. So I felt maybe if we could find a children's story or something, we'd have her laughing. I think a lot of seduction is through laughing and kindness.

There wasn't a lot of tenderness in this film.
It depends what you mean by tenderness but I think if she comes back, it's because she's not suffering too much (laughing).

Do you feel your onscreen relationship with Diane Lane's character is more of a passionate one, rather than a tender one?
Yeah, but you can't have sex with nothing else, it's impossible, it doesn't exist. Sex with nothing else is nothing. I think sex by itself doesn't mean anything. They have a real passionate, sexual relationship - I think - that works. We can see when they walk on the streets, when they are together, they laugh a lot, and they are really like a couple. That's the thing that was very complicated to deal with for this character.

If you really think about it, when somebody cheats on you, it's not my character [the husband] should be mad at - it should be more his wife. Because my character doesn't know him, he just knows his wife. She agreed with what she did and they did share a moment together. Why [is it] always the person who is betrayed [who] goes to the other person, who is the innocent in the relationship? Because it is the one who stirred the desire of the person that you love, and it's all about that I think, more than about just sexual, it's about desire. He is mad at the other one because he stole the desire of his wife who is his property. He becomes very insecure and very mad at that because my character doesn't do anything wrong. From the French point of view, I didn't do anything wrong (laughing). I mean she's beautiful, he likes her, and he says, "Be happy for a moment. This moment is your life." She wants to be happy so, that's it.

Your character doesn't feel guilty at all, does he?
No, not at all and I never played 'guilty.' That's why when we play that scene at the beginning with Richard, he is a little bit surprised by him. That's what makes his character even more mad at him. Because he's not even afraid. He thinks, "He stole my life, my wife, he stole her desire, and on top of that, he's not even afraid of me. No, that's too much. I'm a man." That's a very strange relationship because my character is young, he's totally not worried about the situation.

It's more common to think of a man cheating on his wife than a wife cheating on her husband. Do you think there is a double standard?
Yes, I have a sentence from a Spanish director that I want to repeat. It's maybe not true, but that's what he said to me. He said, "When the woman cheat on the man, all the house cheat on the man." That's something that is interesting. It's really well done in the movie, you really understand the risk she took in this relationship. My character doesn't put something on the table. It's just a relation, he's very free, he also has a girlfriend. But her, she risks all her life, all that she built before. And we see a lot of the child, the child is very present in the movie because that's the problem of the woman. The child is there and she's a mother, also. She's not any more just the young, innocent woman, and that's very heavy.

Why do you think she does it?
Because desire sometimes goes against morality.

Did you and Adrian talk about that?
No, we never really talked about it. As long as I played the situation, I think it was what he wants. I think it's very clear when you see the movie, because the first scene is how he presents the couple. I mean it's totally the American dream with the nice dog, the beautiful house in the suburbs of New York, everything is perfect. It's Richard Gere, Diane Lane, beautiful couple, lot of friends, very smart, very nice, it's a kind of a…you know when you start at the beginning of your life you would say, "I would like that" - that's the kind of American dream and it's not only American, it's a world dream. You feel the touch of the peace, they are in a kind of peace, surrounded by love, friendship, you have a lot of the family and the friends who are there. So she's going to this strange apartment with this guy because sometimes the dream doesn't fit with the reality. That's the paradox of our life. Sometimes we don't [live up to our] expectations, and we are very surprised with ourselves.

Did you enjoy working with Adrian Lyne?
I had a real connection with Adrian that was very nice. It was really one of my happiest movies, ever. I came in the morning on the set, I was talking with the director about soccer in French, because he speaks French fluently. I didn't feel I was in America. I was in New York but in a French neighborhood. I was very welcome on the set. I really felt it, it was more than the director. After I came on the movie, [it was as if] I was coming to do the movie of my friend, Adrian. It was a very, very strong relationship. It's great when you can have both a professional and a human relationship together. It's very rare.

Do you plan on doing more films in America?
I'm looking for projects. I'm going to do a movie with Helen Mirren and Anne Bancroft. I'm leaving in a week for Rome. It's a Tennessee Williams novel and it's a remake of the movie that was done in the 1950s, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. I'm going to be the young, Italian gigolo.

A lot of people think that there's a difference in morality from France to America. Is it assumed that marriages are more open?
No, no, no. They are closed; it's like everywhere. I don't know a lot of people who are very happy to be betrayed by the people that they love. It's all the same. Maybe the difference is the way they behave, the way they seduce. This kind of 'date' concept doesn't exist in France. An American woman never dates a guy to go to the restaurant in France, because it's a big step in your relationship with a guy. When you kiss a guy in France, it means that you want to make love with him - not, obviously, here. I learned this by myself.

Did you get in trouble for something like that?
No, I didn't have trouble personally (laughing). But people explained to me, American people explained it to me. I was never in trouble - but I'm not a specialist. But it's a totally different behavior in the way to seduce and the way to start to become a couple. In America, these things need to be said more.

The dating system in America is obviously very different from the dating system in France.
It's very different. I'm speaking about teenagers and young people. I'm speaking about people under 25 because after they are adults, it's the same way everywhere. When they are a teenager, when they are young - I mean if Britney Spears were French, she wouldn't be a virgin (laughing). Stop me if I'm crossing the line. I don't want to be politically incorrect (laughing). I need to watch my mouth because sometimes when I read it in the magazine, I say, "Oh shit!"

Are you a sex symbol in France?
The concept of sex symbol in France is different. They don't like the "sex symbol" in France. I don't consider myself a sex symbol because all my cousins would laugh at me. "Ah, look at the sex symbol! He's coming today!" So, no, I can't be a sex symbol. I'm glad people think I'm good-looking or handsome, I don't take that like a cheap compliment. I think beauty is important in life so if some people like me physically, I'm very happy - even if it's superficial.

Is it harder to find good projects in France?
No, the thing is, the difference between France and America is that France is much smaller so if you have 10 directors in France, you will have 100 here. It's the low of the numbers, nothing else. Here you miss a project, your agent will say, "Don't worry. You'll have 10 others that will come next week." In France, if you miss a project for any reason, you have to wait for maybe 6 months. I don't want to wait for 6 months - I'm starving.

You come from a family of boxers. Do you box?
Yes, sometimes, when I was younger. I had nothing to do so I was boxing, naturally. I'm the son of a champ and I have a lot of real serious boxers in my family, professional and very high level. I don't consider myself a boxer. If you compare me to an actor, I'm probably one of the best boxers in the profession. But if you compare me as a boxer, I'm probably one of the best actors (laughing).

Why didn't you decide to box professionally?
Because sometimes life decides for you. Your destiny is written and you just need to follow it. Why am I here today? Five years ago I was laughing at a friend of mine learning English. "Ha, ha, you are learning English! Do you think you are going to work in America? Ha, ha stupid!" And today, he says, "Hey, you learn English, too?" I say, "Yes, sorry." Life is like that; you don't know what's going on or where you are going.

Unfaithful is available on Blu-ray and DVD.