If the French public knows so well Gérard Darmon, the actor with the deep voice and the precise meaning of the formula, few people know the man and the little boy who hide behind. Before embarking on a brilliant career on the small and big screen, Gérard Darmon cut his teeth in the small rooms of his summer camps, he, the kid who experienced the brutality of anti-Semitism in the playground and the precariousness of his parents. Faced with Manu Katché for Yahoo, Gérard Darmon returned to this path of life not quite like the others, from his parents and their roots to his ideals of citizenship and his love for Morocco.
To talk about Gérard Darmon, we must of course talk about cult films. In “The City of Fear” he conquered the French public in the 90s with his Carioca. A little later, in “Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra” he took on the air of an Amonbofis plagued by resentment and bitterness, but never far from his comic power. In the “Coeur des hommes”, he is again transformed, this time in the skin of Jeff, a man whose sentimental tribulations make his life a friendly and romantic comedy. Younger, we even saw Gérard Darmon giving the reply to the sacred monster of cinema, Louis de Funès, in “The Adventures of Rabbi Jacob”. And there would be so much to say about this flamboyant career of which a tiny part of the successes has been cited above. At 74, the actor proves that no ground is hostile to him. On Netflix, he made a new audience howl with laughter and attracted fans from the start thanks to his role in the crazy series “Family Business”. On Amazon Prime Video, he gives a hard time to his famous adversaries in the show “LOL, Who laughs, comes out!”. This love for the game, the comedy, Gérard Darmon knew it very young, when he lost himself in his writings of texts, or other geniuses of poetry.
“My father was a thug, we called him Trompe la mort”
Born in Paris in 1948, Gérard Darmon comes from a “Jewish, pied-noir, Mediterranean” family. Arrived in France in 1932, it was in Algeria that his father met his wife and mother of the actor. “A very classic thing, very old-fashioned, very wise for the father I had, who was still a thug at the start” confides Gérard Darmon, who remembers this dad named by all “Trompe la mort”. The tone is set.
It was in this “very special” environment that the actor grew up, following his eventful visits to a bar in Montrouge run by the former world boxing champion, Robert Cohen. There, in the middle of folklore, little Gérard Darmon discovers a lively and lively space: “On Sunday mornings, it smelled of sawdust, there were gypsies playing around a bit.” His mind escapes, especially when he recites the fables of La Fontaine in front of Robert Cohen and the customers of the bar. Improvised performances which then earned him 5 francs, a gold mine for the already passionate kid that he was: “My first stamp, that was it.” In summer camp, Gérard Darmon writes little sketches. It was his very first contact with the laughter of the public, which were “waves, like a tsunami” that intoxicated him on stage and fed him with this irrepressible desire to make others laugh. “I thought, ‘This is what I want to do later.’ I felt invincible”, he recalls today facing Manu Katché.
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Art, a formidable weapon to escape the reality of a precarious daily life. Even today, Gérard Darmon remembers the very modest family apartment, “a kind of eatery in the rue des artistes, full of charm, but so tiny”, without a bathroom and with the toilets on the landing: “I was going to the public bath. I’m from there.” At the age when friends wander around each other, Gérard Darmon prefers to protect this cocoon from the judgment of his comrades: “I only invited very few friends, I was a little ashamed of it” , he concedes.
These roots have determined the man he is. It is also for this life story that Gérard Darmon will never refrain from responding to the “haters” who think he is a “millionaire and wealthy” by opposing him to the “little people”: “You don’t know what you’re talking about when you talk about the people. I come from there, from the stream. I want to add ‘heads of idiots’. I come from there. So don’t do it to me.”
“At school they called me ‘dirty Jew’, ‘wog’, ‘rastaquouère'”
A child of the baby boom, Gérard Darmon was born three years after the end of the Second World War, in this very special period, when we certainly observed a significant increase in the birth rate in France, but when times have especially marked by the horror and violence of a war in which the unspeakable shattered millions of people. The Shoah left deep pain in many Jewish families, like that of Gérard Darmon. “There was a terrible trauma among the Jews (…) So you shouldn’t shout too much from the rooftops. Not too many waves” he recalls. A time when horror gave way to mistrust. So much so that even Gérard Darmon’s middle name, Élie, was not declared at the time, “because of fear, protection.”
At school, even the carelessness of childhood could not protect the actor from the brutal reality still deeply rooted in everyone’s mind. “My best friend at the time was called Carillon. He was blond with blue eyes. I also envied him because he was blond with blue eyes and I was a little prune.” A childish jealousy that doesn’t come out of nowhere. Even today, Gérard Darmon remembers the harsh remarks thrown at him in the playground, such as “metic”, “rastaquouère”, and others even more hurtful: “Dirty Jew it happened two, three times . The big fights I had as a kid started from that.”
Despite the anger and incomprehension, the young Gérard Darmon prefers to pass over these taunts as soon as he walks through the door of the family home. But his parents are quick to take stock of the situation. One evening, while running her hand through the little boy’s hair, his mother realizes that he has bumps on his head, due to the violence of a primary school teacher. “There, I spoke” remembers Gérard Darmon.
“I have Moroccan nationality for honour, not for everything tax”
You may not know it, but Gérard Darmon, in addition to being one of France’s most famous actors, also has Moroccan nationality. And all this was done after a discussion with the brother of the King of Morocco, an “intimate” to whom he had told the story of his family, that of his ancestors and their Moroccan roots. It is also partly for this reason that Gérard Darmon has been going there for more than 40 years.
In 2012, the beautiful story reached the ears of the King of Morocco Mohamed VI, who, “touched”, then said he was ready to grant Gérard Darmon Moroccan nationality, “which is an absolutely exceptional fact”, underlines the artist. He then had to write a real letter of motivation in which he returned to his love for the country: “I unrolled it with the heart. That’s the reason why he read it, he accepted it . I went to Rabat to do in two hours what some take 15, 20 years or never to do. And I have my passport and my Moroccan papers.”
On the other hand, experienced in the sometimes difficult exercise of notoriety and the criticisms that result from it here and there, Gérard Darmon is keen to anticipate any remarks about this dual nationality: “It’s for honor, because everything which is fiscal and all that…I have nothing there, nothing. I just love this country.” But the actor, a very committed citizen who has never been afraid to deliver the substance of his thoughts on political and other subjects, also feels the love of his native France and wants to say it: “I feel eminently French, especially when people try to tell me that I’m not really.”
“There are anti-Semites in France, but France is not a deeply anti-Semitic country”
Because yes, Gérard Darmon is a committed citizen, who has never hesitated to step up to defend his ideas. He himself has often come under fire for this. “I have the impression that tolerance has progressed, and that intolerance too. Both have swelled on equal terms,” he says today. The French political landscape has always interested him, and his ideas have never been a secret: “I don’t know where I would be today if the far right had passed. I would certainly be very badly off. easy.”
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For Gérard Darmon, “there are really dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semites in France, but France is not a deeply anti-Semitic country, you shouldn’t confuse them.” According to the actor, we are now trying to oppose Muslims and Jews in a “little war” that has lasted too long. He does not want to reduce France to what opposes its citizens: “There are people who welcome others, who have their hearts on their sleeves, who are simple, who love.”
Without naming names to avoid sterile controversy, Gérard Darmon still wants to denounce these “guys who are really big big anti-Semites”, and to address them a few words, with his legendary outspokenness: “They are first of all big idiots before being anti-Semites. They take life the same way they take Semites. Unfortunately, the absolute weapon is bullshit. You can’t fight.” Nice conclusion.
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