Sometimes an onscreen pairing seems so obvious, you assume it’s already happened at some point. While Patrick Huard has made a name for himself as a funny man in comedy hits such as Starbuck and Bon Cop, Bad Cop, and Suzanne Clément has walked a more dramatic road with films like Mommy (for which she won a Canadian Screen Award), when they appear as husband and wife in My Internship in Canada, it just makes sense. As a politician who doesn’t know what to do with a big decision he’s been handed, Huard plays the film’s conflicted lead who needs the counterbalance of a the strong, decisive presence which Clément brings.
My Internship in Canada premiered at TIFF to positive reviews, and opened across the country just in time (or just after, in some cities) for election season. We sat down with Huard and Clément during the festival, unfortunately their interviews were scheduled separately, but we have combined them here for simplicity.
DS: How did last night’s screening go?
Patrick Huard: It was great, reactions were great. You can feel it by the Q and A at the end. A lot of people stayed and we could have gone for an hour and half there. People were having comments and questions and were really enthusiastic about the movie. But for a comedy, what counts is, will people laugh? And they were laughing yesterday.
DS: What was your favourite question?
PH: When the ask if the movie is based on a real politician.
DS: And is it?
PH: You would have to ask Philippe. I will take the fifth on this one.
DS: Darn, I just came from my interview with him, I wish we’d done these the other way around. What first attracted you to this script?
PH: It was like a novel, it was a page turner. It was so good. I wanted to know what would happen next to this guy. In a way it was getting more and more complicated and more and more clear at the same time, that’s why I think this script is so clever. Because it’s a masterclass about democracy but it’s not heavy, it’s not intellectual, it’s just so organic and physical. You actually see all of those people and all of those obstacles that he has to go through to do what he has to do. Actually when you think about all of those groups of people; the natives, the miners, the truckers, his family, they are all lobbyists. The more and more he wants to do the right thing for everybody, the more complicated it gets. It could have easily been boring and just people talking on cell phones and Philippe found a way to make it really… you can see it and you can feel those emotions and you feel this guy is overwhelmed by the situation, I just loved it.
Suzanne Clement: I’ve wanted to work with Patrick for a very long time. I feel that he’s immense, I love his work and I think his work is evolving, he’s evolving every year. I read the script, I loved the woman. She works with trees, she’s pragmatic, she’s the opposite of who I was the past few years. Her hands are in the earth and she’s the one balancing the couple.
DS: Do you follow politics?
PH: I do, I try as much as I can. Not as much as I should but as much as I can. Doing this movie, looking to our country through this young intern, made me realized how privileged we are. We take it for granted, but it’s a great privilege to have a vote, to have freedom of expression without fear of being shot. It’s crazy how important it is, and how it’s also responsibility, it’s not something that you’re just given and you have the rest of your life, you have to use it, you have to express yourself, you have to vote. I don’t care what you think, just express yourself and use it. It made me realize that I need to do it more and get the information and form and opinion and try to do the right thing as a citizen, which is not that easy.
SC: I don’t. I should.
DS: Don’t feel bad, I don’t really either.
SC: That’s what’s good about this movie, you don’t have to follow politics. It’s like politics for us (laughs). For me it was like ‘okay so that’s how it works’
DS: How does your experience on set like this differ from when you’re working on more dramatic films?
SC: I’m usually in my bubble, I’ll listen to music or pretend to listen to music, whereas a movie like this I was more like the character, open.
DS: The intern character is played by first time actor Irdens Exantus, did you have any advice for him?
PH: Not about the acting, because he’s just a natural, and also for comedy. He has this natural rhythm and he listens really good. He’s always with you in the situation, never on and off, never self conscious or whatever. He’s a great actor. What was funny though, what was happening on screen was also happening offscreen. We became friends and also I was the bigger brother, saying technical stuff, explaining technical stuff to him. Like pace yourself man, it’s a 15 hour day, don’t go all out before lunch, because he was so enthusiastic to be there, he would go and talk to everybody all the time, making jokes and jumping all over the place because he’s really physical as well. I think was after the third day, he said to me ‘man I’m exhausted’.
SC: I didn’t have anything to say to him, it seemed so easy! I’ve rarely a seen a new actor like this. For children actors, when they’re very good you can’t tell them anything, but he’s not a child actor, he’s just a young man. It seemed like he was relaxed, so it seemed like he’d done this all his life.
DS: This is a road movie where you take about every mode of transportation. Did you have a favourite?
PH: We had a lot of fun with the ATV, the four wheeler. What was funny though was when we were shooting the plane scene, I was totally comfortable and Irdens was scared crazy. So when were saying ‘action’ I was like sweating, heavy breathing, and he was like that when the director would say ‘cut’ (laughs).
DS: What did you want to get across about your characters?
SC: This couple has to be seen as a couple that’s been together for twenty years, so we’ll put little details in. I think the chemistry was pretty instant, and we had fun. We’ve worked twice on the same projects but never speaking together as characters.
PH: This role has a lot of paradox. He’s a really down-to-earth guy, ex hockey player, not a great education, at the same time he’s been a politician for seven years, so he’s learned some stuff. He’s had conversations with educated people, so the tough part was finding the right level of language, how good his French should be and maintaining it the whole movie, so you believe he comes from a very modest family. I need him to be as credible when he’s talking to truckers as when he was talking to the Prime Minister, that’s the balance that we needed to find in the language.
It’s a lot of fun to play, The challenge when you have a character who is so nice is to make him interesting still. I wanted him to be a nice guy but not a perfect guy, that would have been boring.
DS: So you would vote for him?
PH: Totally. He’s actually the incarnation of the politician I would vote for.
SC: Yeah I would, I love him.
DS: What’s on your Dork Shelf?
PH: Actually it’s my vintage bar equipment. I’m really into cocktails and like to buy some equipment at flea markets and stuff like that. The weirdest one I can get I like to show off.
DS: What’s your favourite cocktail?
PH: Right now I’m sort of in love with the Negroni, every variation of the Negroni, which is a classic. One part gin, one part campari, and one part sweet vermouth.