French-Burkinabé actor Jacky Ido stars in the latest Claude Lelouch movie, his first major breakthrough in the French film industry. A director, actor, screenwriter and slam poet, Ido has worked with Quentin Tarantino and has received serval awards. He talks about working with Lelouch, being a black actor in France and playing in the nude.
Funnily enough, for his first role in a “big” French movie (after all, we’re talking about Claude Lelouch, almost an institution in France, after the Eiffel Tower), Ido only speaks English.
In Ces amours-là, he plays an American soldier who landed in France during the the Second World War. He becomes one of the great loves of Ilva, the main character played by Audrey Dana.
Ilva has something of Claude Lelouch in her, in the way that she often falls head-over-heels in love. She’s a free spirit in a very prejudiced 1940s, with a German lover, then a black lover and then indulging in a ménage à trois…
In his 43rd movie, Lelouch endeavours to show his love of cinema, women and music. He said he began making it 40 years ago, shooting parts of the movie during each of his previous 42 films.
Ces amours-là, is a very personal film, with scenes from Lelouch’s own life. Instead of the usual disclaimer at the beginning of a movie, it says that the characters depicted are not fictitious.
In book on the making of Ces amours-là, photographer Valérie Perrin writes that Lelouch knew after his first meeting with Ido that he found the right actor to play Bob Kane.
For Ido, it was an honour to be chosen by one of the most prominent directors in France.
“He was a dream come true for the actor I am and for the director I am,” Ido said. “Also, he’s the kind of character that I like: he’s independent, he’s the main producer of all of his movies.”
Ido spent part of his childhood in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, where his parents came from. As much as he feels French, Ido is also very close to his African roots.
Thomas Sankara, the rebel leader who turned colonised Haute Volta into independent Burkina Faso, is one of his idols, along with Jackie Chan and Samuel Beckett.
Ido started his acting career in France some ten years ago. His first main role was in a 2005 German-American movie, The White Masai, by Hermine Huntegeburth. Quentin Tarantino who cast him in Inglourious Basterds in 2009, which was followed by the overwhelming experience of receiving the Screen Actors Guild Award.
Why did it take so long for the French film industry to wake up to Ido's talent? “
I don’t have an answer to that," he says. "I hear so many people whining and crying about this. They don’t do anything but just criticise the system. But that’s not what I’m doing. I really see myself as the solution, not the problem.”
He is referring to the problem in the French movie industry of typecasting black or Arab actors.
“Hopefully, it is moving forward with people like Sami Bouajila or Roshdy Zem, who are really respected in the industry now, but they still need to include more black people," says Ido.
“After Tarantino, I was hoping to get more significant parts. I hope I’ll enjoy playing flesh-and-bones roles with humanity, in the spirit that I can set an example.”
In that regard, the character of Bob Kane in Ces amours-là is exciting to play because he was not black.
“He could have been anyone. He’s just a human being who falls in love with a woman, I gave him the black side because I am black,” explains Ido.
Ido often travels to the US, and he has noticed a difference between the French and American film industries.
“There are million of parts proposed to actors every day" in the US, he says. "It’s easier to earn a living there... It’s also hard because there are great actors there who are very dedicated, but I find it easier to fit in.”
Today acting is the driving force in Ido’s multi-facetted career, and it is an experience which enriches his work as a director. He considers acting as his school for directing, and he absorbs a lot working with great directors.
Jacky Ido is working on a slam poetry album, and wrote the songs for Monsieur Luxure, a show by his co-star, Laurent Couson, that opens in Paris at the Théâtre de la Gaîté Montparnasse on 24 October. To keep up with Ido, visit his Facebook page.