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‘Emily in Paris’ Star Lucas Bravo on Getting Naked, Sweaty for Cannes Film

‘Emily in Paris’ Star Lucas Bravo on Getting Naked, Sweaty for Cannes Film

It’s one of those perfect Cannes mornings. The sun is shining, there’s a slight breeze off the sea and the streets are not yet stuffed with pedestrians hustling towards screenings or official festival business. Lucas Bravo matches the city’s calm energy when he emerges from a back room of an airy second-floor apartment just a stone’s throw from the Croisette. He takes a seat on the sofa opposite The Hollywood Reporter for what will be his first conversation about his Cannes Film Festival selection, The Balconettes.

Writer, filmmaker and actress Noémi Merlant, known for Portrait of a Lady on Fire, directed Balconettes, which centers on a Marseille neighborhood during a summer heat wave. Three roommates gleefully meddle in the lives of their neighbors from their balcony until a late-night drink turns into a bloody affair. Bravo — who broke out as dashing love interest Gabriel on Netflix‘s Emily in Paris opposite Lily Collins — plays a neighbor to the women and says he’s so proud of the film, which he calls a “bold” and utterly creative film. His work in it may surprise his Emily in Paris fans as the French actor spends the entire film covered in sweat, eyeliner and little else.

Below, Bravo opens up on why he said yes to getting naked, growing up in nearby Nice, and making it to No. 1 on the call sheet by playing a notorious jewel thief in the upcoming film Sulak for another actress-turned-director, Melanie Laurent.

Growing up in France, how does it feel to be at the Cannes Film Festival with a movie?

You grow up with the image of Cannes and all the new wave filmmakers, these amazing actors and all the movies you grew up with. The first images you have are of the red carpet. It seems infinite in pictures and you don’t know what it actually looks like or how big it really is or where it sits in the city. Discovering what it really looks like from the outside is interesting. Being French, I’m from Nice, I was born one hour away from Cannes. I didn’t spend much time here but it feels like coming home in a way. There’s an excitement and curiosity, but at the same time, with coming from Nice, it’s air I know how to breathe.

Tell me about The Balconettes

You’re actually the first person I’ve talked to about it. I saw the movie three days ago. You always know what you shot and the experience you had, but you never know what the director is going to make out of it. It was my first time watching a movie that I’m in where I feel like it completely surpasses the script. She made something so creative in every aspect — the outfits, the soundtrack, the way the camera moves, the way she directed us. Everything is unique. Everything is bold. I’m pretty proud of it. I’m happy it’s showing at midnight when people have had a couple of drinks and are ready to cheer.

I read a description that said it’s very Euphoria-like?

I don’t want to talk on behalf of Noémi, but the way I feel about it is that there’s a kind of dystopian feel about it. It’s not in the future, it’s not far away. It’s not Black Mirror, but there’s something otherworldly about it. I guess in terms of Euphoria, the outfits are expensive and the makeup is crazy. It’s my first time doing an entire movie wearing a lot of eyeliner. It was fun. It takes place in Marseille during the summer, so there was a lot of sweat involved. We put sweat on us in every scene and they kept saying, “More sweat. More sweat.” It created an atmosphere that you can’t help from being absorbed in from the start.

What was it like to work with Noémi?

At her age, and with the expectations on her, she put everything on the line. She also followed through on her ideas. As a director, it can be difficult because the DP has an idea, and everyone wants to influence you. As a woman, you might not always feel trusted or respected to the level that you should be, and she stood up for her ideas and she went all the way. She really portrayed her mind and how it works.

You’ve worked with several actor-directors. Does it make it easier to turn in a performance when you are working for someone who knows what that’s like?

Yes, I think the answer is in the question. When you’ve been in an actor’s shoes, you know exactly how to talk to them. I think actors understand that you cannot apply the same direction to all actors. Noémi knows that every actor has a different process, and so she adapted her notes and the way she directed each and every one of us. Some need encouragement, some need pushing, some need to be tricked. I could witness that, and it was so interesting.

What was your favorite day on set?

My favorite day was also the worst day. I don’t want to give up too much about the movie but there’s a scene where we are all standing in blood. We shot for two days with blood on the floor. To make fake blood, they use lots of sugar and it was 42 degrees [Celsius] that day. No air conditioning, nothing. We shot in an old chocolate factory that we turned into a studio last minute. Staying in that kind of goo was crazy. It was so much of a struggle that I think it bonded all of us.

What about your favorite scene?

After seeing it for the first time, it’s too hard for me to choose. The movie is made up of plenty of iconic scenes. There are five scenes I love where she invites you into a dream while tackling important subjects like uncovering freedom, nudity. … I realize how crazy it is to talk about it for the first time, I don’t know what to say …

How does the nudity factor into the story? Are the women nude? You?

Well, you’ll see. Are you going to see it here in Cannes?

Yes, I will go tomorrow night.

OK, you will see. There was a moment when Noémi called me halfway through the shoot. I was already undressed a lot in the movie because it’s summer and it’s sweaty. It was a very funny phone call because it was 2 a.m. and she said, “I’ve been thinking about this movie, and the girls are naked a lot. It would only fair that you would show more, but I wanted to call you to see if you agree with that? Is that OK?” There’s nothing I’m less comfortable with than being naked on screen. But I think fear is an indicator of where you need to go. She’s right. It’s only fair in our times if everybody is playing that game in the movie of showing more skin, I should jump in and show more skin, too.

How much skin?

Just the right amount. If I tell you, I also have to tell you one of the main intrigues of the movie.

How did you prepare?

I knew about the movie two months in advance, so I called a trainer and went to the gym every day in the morning. Then I started boxing on the side and did yoga with another coach. I wanted to be present for shooting my scenes so I thought if I were too afraid and self-conscious about my body, I wouldn’t be able to give my all in the scenes. So I wanted to get that out of the way by feeling more athletic. Everybody has a different trauma and mine is my body. I don’t always feel in touch with it. So I try to get that out of the way as much as possible by exercising.

Everyone puts such an emphasis on what the women wear in Cannes. What will you wear? I know you have relationships with brands like Ami and Zegna. How did you decide?

That’s a good question because it’s not very organic. When you’re an actor and you see all these beautiful people on screen and rocking beautiful outfits, behind closed doors you realize that it’s an entire circuit. It’s hard for me to try things because I’m confronted with where I’m standing with my body and everything. I found a great relationship with Zegna and they made a beautiful suit for me. I like sober. I like elegant, a little bit Italian. I don’t want to make a fashion statement. It’s important to remain who you are in this kind of dynamic. There are flashes. There are a lot of things that makes the brain feel not safe in that kind of environment, so it’s important to have a beautiful armor of sorts to help you cope in such an intense moment.

It feels like a good moment for you in your career, by the way. You have a movie in Cannes, the fourth season of Emily in Paris coming and you just finished your first lead role in a movie as the title character in Melanie Laurent’s Sulak. What did you know about this man, one of the most famous criminals in French history?

I didn’t know about him. Melanie brought him to my attention in a very smart way. She knows I like poetry, being weird and sitting alone and watching trees. She sent me little poems that he wrote while he was in jail. He was an incredibly sensitive writer. He had this sense of observation and contemplation that I really connect with. I read the poems and asked her, “Who wrote this? This is absolutely incredible.” She told me it was a criminal from the ‘80s and she wanted me to play this part. It’s hard to fathom that he was a criminal, so to speak, and I don’t even like to use that word because he was a messenger for liberty, for freedom in the times where supermarkets started existing and shifting the sides of capitalism. He was a messenger for an older world that was a better world, probably one of the last messengers from the ‘70s and he inspired a lot of people. He wasn’t a violent, weaponized man. It was the most beautiful part I’ve ever had to play.

What was something you learned about being number one on the call sheet?

As I said, it’s always hard for me to feel legitimate. My hair and makeup person would always joke about that because they could see how uncomfortable I was in that position. She would tell me that if I needed anything to remember that I was number one. “You just have to clap your hands.” [Laughs] I was like, “Stop. No, no, no.” But what I found out, which made me understand Lily Collins better, is that when you’re leading, you not only there to give a good performance but it is your duty to your cast members to create a dynamic and make them feel welcome when they arrive to set. You give them enough room to make it feel like a safe place for them to try new things, improvise and reveal the best version of themselves. It was galvanizing to not only have this power but this duty to be at their service, be a better actor. It was a weird process that I really loved and I applied it to everything else ever since.

Speaking of Emily in Paris, Darren Star recently said that Emily and Gabriel’s relationship next season finds them in a complicated place. What can you say?

I loved shooting this season. It’s my favorite so far. I used to say season one is birth, season two is childhood, season three is adolescence and season four is maturity or adult life. It really felt that way. We arrived with such a focused mindset. My relationship with Lily and all the cast members was amazing. Because of the year-and-a-half delay with the SAG strike, it gave us time to reflect, and so we could bring our experience and mindset back to the show. It gave us time to zoom out and we came back with the intention to make every relationship more intense. Darren wrote something very interesting for us. He burst all the abscesses. There were a lot of communication problems for the characters in their stories, misunderstandings, and they’re all being addressed in this season. They’re facing each other, they’re fighting. We’re seeing things that we haven’t seen before. We took it to another level.

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That sounds exciting. Where do you go from here?

I’m taking a break.

Reading poetry and staring at trees…?

Yes and being weird. It’s important. Get lost to be found. If you want to portray the world, it’s important that you make time to observe it. In September, I’ll be shooting a show, Dangerous Liaisons, for the French HBO platform. I’m super excited about this. I’ve been training with swords and learning horse riding. I’m completely changing my body and shape for the show. There are great actors around me, as well. It’s going to be a long shoot.

That’s another sexy show.

Yes.

Maybe more nudity…

Yes. You know what? It’s funny because I’ve addressed my fear of nudity, and that’s all I’ve been doing for the past year and a half. There are scenes like that in Sulak and Emily, of course. I feel like once I’ll accept it, that’s when the turtlenecks we will come back on.

Lucien Laviscount, Camille Razat, Lily Collins, Ashley Park and Lucas Bravo at a PaleyFest event.

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Kaitlyn Dever, George Clooney, Lucas Bravo, Julia Roberts, Billie Lourd and Maxime Bouttier at the London premiere of Ticket to Paradise.

Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Universal

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