Kev Adams: “This is the type of film I used to dream of making when I was little”

Kev Adams: “This is the type of film I used to dream of making when I was little”
2017 Interview Premium Films

You’ve had great audience success in film roles before, notably Les Profs and Fiston, but The New Adventures of Aladdin is really the first film in which you play the lead. Was that also a significant turning point in your career as a young actor?

Yes, of course, though since my beginnings on screen I’ve always had the feeling, with every picture, that I was carrying the film on my shoulders, especially when it comes to promotion. It’s true that this time Aladdin is Kev Adams, but beyond that association between a character and an actor, it is, above all, an ensemble picture and the story isn’t centred simply around the main hero. I sincerely hope audiences realise that as well.

You were linked to this project from the very beginning, even before the director was decided upon. What immediately drew you to it?

Everything, from the very first reading of the screenplay! I was so looking forward to being on my magic carpet, with a genie; to taking part in such a figurative story, so full of humour as well; to confronting the real world and dealing with anachronisms. The very first script was 250 pages long, something truly epic, and I absolutely loved that. It’s the type of film I used to dream of making when I was little, and I wanted to be in all those fights, make a triumphant entry into Baghdad, have my little palace, have fun with a virtual universe created via special effects. In short, there was no way I was going to miss out on this Aladdin.

As well, you double up in the film, playing both Aladdin and Sam, the narrator…

And Sam is very cleverly drawn in the story. Daive, as writer, and Arthur, as scenographer, managed to put together a kind of surprise, an overall take on things which is not grasped till the end. That brings a very real dimension to the film: that ending in the house allows us not only to encounter characters we already know from the folktale, but also to see what was happening in Sam’s head while he was telling the story of Aladdin. He used those close to him and his fiancé’s family to give greater flavour to his story, and that’s very clever.

And, in so doing, say something quite interesting about society today, about appearances, lies, superficiality…

It is, indeed, a very interesting subject in the film, because it does reflect our society. The image that one so desperately wishes to give of one’s self, through the clothes one wears, for example, the need to seduce, the overriding importance of appearance, wealth, fame. That’s something I live with every day, and if I was deeply touched by this story it wasn’t simply because of the flying carpets. It was mainly because of the big theme behind it all, the legend of Aladdin. It’s often said that One Thousand and One Nights was extremely modern, because it was already espousing the idea of “be yourself, that’s the most important thing, and it’s also your best seductive weapon.” It’s the type of moral I liked in the films of my childhood, which I grew up with. I’m extremely proud to be able to talk about that through this project. And it’s so well done, with great humour and the right amount of detachment.

You are of Algerian-Tunisian origin, by mother and father. Was it therefore especially significant to you to play a mythical character of the Maghreb?

I was, indeed, very pleased, to play an oriental hero, even more so given that the cast mainly comprises actors in no way linked to that part of the world. Furthermore, we shot in Morocco, the only Maghreb country where I have no family roots. But when one is doing a film, tackling a folktale or a fable, religion and ethnicity do not come into play. One’s got to deal with what’s really essential: the characters, the sets…That said though, the story of Aladdin brought back to me those stories my Tunisian grandfather used to tell me. On top of that, in Morocco, every day, we would be seeing and working with people who didn’t possess much, but always had so much to offer. It was very moving, very motivating. You could feel that in your head every day on the shoot…

Talking of the shoot, Arthur Benzaquen says you had to almost be literally dragged away from the set for the stunt action sequences, so much did you like those Belmondo-type scenes!

I love those moments, and I like to do them myself. It feels truer to me. Being an actor is wanting to do every profession in the world. In all my films so far I’ve had to work in very different registers. For Les Profs, I couldn’t abide the idea that a stuntman should be jumping around in my place. That was part of the character, and in The New Adventures of Aladdin, there was no way I was going to deprive myself of the fights and punch-ups. I wanted to feel completely in the skin of the hero, through and through.

What would you say about your work with the director?

It’s the first time I’ve had such a relationship with a director on a shoot. He was able to create a “holiday camp” spirit, so much so that at the end no one wanted to leave. Arthur also knows how to take the actors exactly where he wants. It was extraordinary and inspiring to be able to share this experience with him. He is very creative and funny and for this type of project it was important, such a privilege, to have someone like him at the helm. I know that from the very first day he arrived on the set of The New Adventures of Aladdin, Arthur gave it his all, like he was looking after his own kid. He was able to motivate us all, with such loving care. As for me, he knows I feel the same about him, and I know he wanted to show me to audiences in a different light, the way he no doubt sees me…

As well as allow you to bring so much of your own universe to the character of Aladdin…

Yes, and that’s also why I was chosen for the role. It was also all about finding the right link between my universe and the universe imagined by Daive and Arthur, so everyone could fit in very well, audiences as well.

Let’s take a look at the rest of the cast, starting with your best enemy, the Vizier, played by Jean-Paul Rouve.

I’d dreamt since I was very young of one day working with him. He’s a great actor, a great professional. If there was such a thing as the Olympic Games of actors, he would have to be sent to represent France. Jean-Paul gave himself over completely to his character, Vizir, which didn’t stop him from being his affable self, funny and with always so much to offer. Being a director himself, he can also bring another vision to a set.

Your father-in-law, the Sultan, Michel Blanc?

Another grand old man of French cinema. I didn’t have many scenes with him, but those that I did were always intense, magic moments. I always felt like singing “country of my dreams, wonderful country”…You immediately understand once you start playing opposite him why he’s been such a good actor all these years. We have very few comedic craftsmen of that calibre in France...

Princess Vanessa Guide?

The most beautiful discovery of this shoot. I didn’t know her. I had never seen her work in « Le Grand Journal », for example. I was absolutely bowled over by Vanessa. Simply amazed. First of all, she is devilishly beautiful in the film. On top of that, she’s always spot-on, sweet and funny. I am sure she will be the revelation of The New Adventures of Aladdin.

And someone you knew better, William Ledghill, your friend on screen and in real life…

It pains me to have to say it, but he is among the best 3 or 4 actors of his generation. William is a real master of comedy, of acting in general. It’s almost five years now I’ve been working with him on film and TV sets, so if there’s anyone who knows how he works, it’s me. He is formidable. He is an inexplicable machine of efficiency, and I think he is going to have one hell of a career over the next ten years. I was obviously delighted to share the experience of The New Adventures of Aladdin on screen with him. We were like two little kids flying round Morocco on flying carpets, and I know that’s only made our friendship even greater.

A word on Audrey Lamy, as Rabada, the servant…

I was already a great fan of hers before shooting here with her. We’re also friends in real life. She’s very cool, adorable, nice, and one of the best and most beautiful actresses of her generation. Audrey is also very good in every range, from drama to comedy. In the film, she’s got that little touch of madness, that “girl-power” only she can convey.

And of course, we can’t not talk about your Genie, alias Eric Judor…

I’m delighted and honoured to have been able to share many scenes with Eric. La Tour Montparnasse infernale and Double Zero, are films I grew up with and, honestly, I couldn’t see any other actor capable of embodying the genie in Aladdin. Eric is a fabulous French comedy actor and I found in this film everything that made me laugh so much in “H”. I’d say he’s going back to his roots, and it’s a register in which he excels. We didn’t really know each other, but I remember Eric had come to see my show in Corsica and he’d liked it very much. We had talked a bit about it but we really got to know each other in The Adventures of Aladdin.

Hearing you all, and you yourself also said so, this shoot was very much like a holiday camp. You know that’s not often the case. What was the recipe here?

There’s no recipe. For us, it’s true, there was indeed a kind of magic. That doesn’t mean it was all plain sailing, with nothing but great love and understanding every second of the way from the beginning, or that there weren’t brawls and arguments. But at one point, the project just sucked us all in. We were simply just so happy to work and live together, and not want to leave each other at the end. That really does sound like a holiday camp. I hope audiences feel that when they see the film.

Looking back over these five years, what can you say about your career, about your life and experiences in the theatre, film, TV?

It’s not easy to be able to take such a step back at this moment in my young career. I often say to myself that what I’m living isn’t normal, when I hear the box office figures of my films and for the plays I’ve done. I’m very happy of course, but I still want more. Much more. I’m someone obsessed with the future, with projects, with what’s next. Being a bit of a freak by nature, all that keeps going round in my head and therefore prevents me from going back to the past, to what I’ve already accomplished. If it all ended today, I’d be extremely happy that I’ve already accomplished all that. I’ve just shot my sixth film; I’ve done two one-man shows, and a TV series that’s in its fourth season. It’s all gone so very fast…