After two tedious years of pandemic-related postponements, Frédéric Cerulli’s hilarious comedy about a family of undertakers is hitting the big screen this month. Actor Marc F. Duret, one of the protagonists, spills the inside beans.
Say you’re a film director, or an actor for that matter, and you’re in the middle of making a movie with great potential for the national market. Everything rolls along nicely, and then boom! A pandemic hits and forces the production to come to a screeching halt. How do you recover from that? We had a chat with someone who knows firsthand. Nice-born actor Marc F. Duret co-stars in Envol , one of the year’s funniest comedies, and a must-see once it comes to a cinema near you.
Marc, what is Envol about?
Envol is a bittersweet comedy about the Castelli family and their undertaker business. They have been working together for three generations, but today, the strong bond that unites them is weakening day by day. Luna, the youngest daughter, is no longer in touch, business is going badly and all that remains for Diego and Filippo is the nostalgia of happier days. Until an event, as tragic as it is unexpected, a second chance that only life can offer… So there are two stories that are interwoven, and without giving away the plot – yes, there is a happy end.
Sounds intriguing! Who are your co-stars? And how was this shoot under such peculiar circumstances?
We have a fabulous cast many of whom are from the Nice area, like myself: I play Filippo the embalmer, alongside Pierre Santini, Alice Carel, Bruno Putzulu, Andréa Ferréol, Emma Colberti, Françoise Nahon, Philippe Rigot, Elsa Romano, Henri Concas, and Pascal Légitimus.
Frédéric Cerulli is an amazing director who despite the difficulties that the pandemic threw our way, made the best of it, and kept us motivated us throughout. There were of course strict safety and security measures in place – daily PCR tests, physical distancing, and all that. In fact, there was even a person on the set, dedicated exclusively to making sure that protocol was observed. It went as far as several scenes having to be rewritten to respect the parameters, all while looking natural. But we had a lot of fun, thanks to an amazing team that was determined not to be beat by the circumstances.
What personal memories of the shoot can you share with us?
The film was shot in the Grasse area in 2020. It was supposed to be finished early in the year but then lockdown came. By the time we resumed, it was summer and boiling hot – not the kind of weather you want to wear a black suit and tie in. We shot the majority of the film at night, for one to escape the heat, and of course also not to disturb the day-to-day operations at the funeral home we filmed at. Remember, this was at the height of the Corona pandemic, with many more persons diseased than normally.
One fun memory: I once accidentally walked into a room where an actual funeral was going on. I didn’t realize right away and walked up to the casket. There I realized that the defunct was not our own “dead body”, Henri Concas, but a real person. I was so flummoxed that I actually said “sorry!” to him!
Although this film is in French, and for the French market, it is a comedy in a style that’s not exactly classic French tradition. How come?
Who says the French can’t do comedy? (laughs) But as for Envol… Look at the people who made it: there are lots of Italians in it! I myself am half Italian, as you may know. And Italians just have a different, more lighthearted approach to dealing with the dead, and with the topic of death. Not unlike an Irish wake where you sing and dance and tell funny stories about the Dearly Departed.
Is such a setting – a funeral home and all that comes with it – spooky for an actor?
Not for me. I realized that working in a funeral home is like any other job. In fact, it gave me a true appreciation for the noble profession of an undertaker. The English word “passing away” captures it beautifully – you are going somewhere else while your body is prepared for a journey.
Actually, along the same vein: If you noticed, I’ve also added the initial “F” to my name a while ago, going by Marc F. Duret now. My middle name is Francesco, after my late Italian grandfather, and I am now using it as a tribute to him. To me it is a meaningful way to connect the world of the living with that of the ones who went before us. There is this beautiful saying, “If someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure”. That’s how I feel about the Other Side, and the shoot at the funeral parlour actually helped bring such thoughts to the surface.
Envol has already been pre-screening across France to great success. When is its wide release scheduled for?
The film comes out nationwide on April 27 but prior to that, in a nod to the region that supported the making of this movie, and of course to Frédéric Cerulli’s hometown of Cannes, there are still a few local pre-screenings where your readers can actually meet us.
Back to the Here and Now: You are originally from Nice, and even though you’ve gone on to make your life and career between Paris, London, and New York, you still have a huge and faithful fan base here. What’s next for you?
Well, I am indeed quite busy. I am just working on a play in Paris called “Votre Maman”, authored by Jean-Claude Grumberg. There are also a couple of international film projects on the horizon, including a series with Michael Douglas and a new Tom Fontana production. I’ll let you know more about that at the time.
But I still have one big pet project that I would love to get underway: a bilingual acting school, based in Nice. Nothing could have prepared me better for this than teaching master classes at Jean Reno‘s magnificent workshops in Les Baux. So I am really looking forward to that, and to being back in my home town much more often.
Thank you for the interview, Marc F. Duret!
Photos and teasers: courtesy Thomas Gauthier, Studio Media Prestige, and Marc F. Duret