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Interview: Patrick Huard and Suzanne Clément on MY INTERNSHIP IN CANADA

If you mention the names Patrick Huard and Suzanne Clément to most mainstream moviegoers, odds are, they will not recognize the names. Mention them to anyone in Québec and they will be able to list their respective filmographies off the top of their head. Regardless, these are definitely two of the best Canadian actors working today. Huard is most famous for his work in the 2011 film Starbuck, while Clément is most respected for her work with Xavier Dolan in films such as Laurence Anyways and Mommy. Both actors appeared in Mommy, but never actually shared any screen time. Now, just a year later, two of Québec’s greatest actors are finally working together in Philippe Falardeau’s political comedy My Internship in Canada. We caught up with the actors during the Toronto International Film Festival to discuss the film and what it was like to finally work together.

Scene Creek: Considering your background in comedy and her background in drama, what was it like working with Suzanne Clément?

Patrick Huard: It was really easy. That woman is so good, so brilliant. She is intelligent, she’s sensible, she’s generous, and also very intense. It’s really easy to play and act with somebody like this. We were looking to work together a while ago, but it never happened. We were also very excited about playing a happy couple that gets along well and has been together for a long time. It’s not often that you get the opportunity to play that onscreen. Most of the time when you pay a couple in a film it is usually a new couple or a couple that is about break up. Not this one, this one was really strong. They don’t think the same or have the same opinions about everything, but they love each other and that is never questioned. We were sort of relieved to have the opportunity to play those kinds of characters. I feel like the couple in the movie is a character in itself. It’s really important and drives the story. As much as the other couple, which is the intern and I, is another character. One is odd and one is totally in sync. It’s great.

Scene Creek: It is really refreshing to see a film that deals with Canadian politics, especially using real political parties, in a comedic way. Are you generally interested in politics? Did you have to do a lot of research?

Patrick Huard: I’m always interested in politics. Of course, if you have to do some research you go to Philippe Falardeau [laughs]. He actually studied politics in university and he knows it well, really well. Not just our politics but all over the world. I think it’s a privilege to have the right to vote. It’s a huge privilege that we have here, a huge privilege that we are able to express our opinions all the time without the fear of being killed. It sounds stupid but it’s not a given, it’s not granted everywhere on the planet. That’s what the movie is all about. You have to exercise that right every time you have the chance to do it. You have to voice your opinion, you have to vote. That’s what I like about the character in the movie. He doesn’t have any prejudice against anyone. In the beginning of the movie he has this young black guy showing up in his office in the country of northern Quebec where there is not a lot of them, and he doesn’t blink an eye. He says, “You’re hired. Let’s work together.” It is never a question. It is never there. He is that open and is the same with everyone else. I love that about the character. He’s arguing with men, women, young, old, black, white. No difference. He treats everybody the same way. For me that is very Canadian. If there is one quality we have it is this one. Hopefully we’ll be able to hang on to it, because we have a lot of pressure right now to close our borders and be afraid. That’s not us. That is not who we are.

Scene Creek: In 2013 your film Starbuck was remade as The Delivery Man starring Vince Vaughn. Have you ever seen it?

Patrick Huard: No, I never did, and for a very specific reason. That character and that movie were very special for me. I wanted it to stay that way. I don’t want to watch somebody else do the same part and then start to compare them. You know what I mean? I want to keep that memory pristine. It’s mine; it’s nobody else’s. For the other actor, it’s theirs. It’s always tough when they do a remake and you sort of just witness it. They also did a remake in France and they also remade a movie I directed in France. I never watched it. I want to keep those moments like they were for me. It’s not a good situation to put yourself in when you compare the two. Also, I really like the fact that if somebody asks me if I’ve seen it and what I thought, I have no answers because I didn’t see it. I don’t have to be politically correct and I don’t have to be mean. I didn’t see it, so that keeps me safe.

Scene Creek: Suzanne, this film seems to be an interesting choice for you, as you’re usually acting in dramas playing characters that are having a really difficult time. Here you’re playing a happily married woman and you seem to be having a great time. Why are you finally doing a comedy?

Suzanne Clément: I think we came back from Mommy and I was spending time last summer in Québec in the woods with my sister and her children and her boyfriend. They actually have a relationship that is almost like that of Steve and Suzanne in the film. My sister and her boyfriend have been together for like twenty-five years, since she was seventeen. For the past few years I’ve been away for long periods of time, so when Philippe came to me with the script I was like, “Oh yes, a comedy!” It was in Québec, in the countryside with a great actor who I wanted to work with for a long time, Patrick Huard. This character that so pragmatic, she is the opposite of who I’ve been in my life. I usually don’t know where I’m going or what to do. So, I guess that’s what you saw in the movie. It was a lot of fun.

Scene Creek: Recently you have expanded your working to making films in English, as well as doing films in France. Are you just experimenting or trying to broaden your scope as an actor?

Suzanne Clément: It’s kind of both. It is an experiment as an actor. What happened was that when we made my first project with Xavier Dolan, I Killed My Mother, I had a small character. When we did Laurence Anyways it was shown in Cannes, where I won a prize, so that allowed me to have a French agent, who approached me. I had been on a long sabbatical in Paris, so I kind of picked up the language and the way of living and speaking there. I was going out a lot and was experiencing a lot of things. It was like a few I was preparing to play a few characters, without me knowing it. So when I got the agent, I thought, “Why not?” I love to travel. I don’t have a house, children or a husband… I had dog, who had died…[sighs] even my dog had died. So there was this opportunity that felt right for me. It’s a continuing process. I’m still trying to find stuff that interests me outside of Quebec.

Scene Creek: While you have expanded your scope, Xavier Dolan seems to be doing the same thing. He is currently filming an film with French actors in Québec and will soon be doing an English-language film in America. Do you think that you will get to work together again?

Suzanne Clément: I think that life will bring us back together. If it’s not on one of his films, then something else. Our friendship is something outside of that anyways. If not, it is because we all have different great things to do. But we’ll still always be friends.

My Internship in Canada is now playing.

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.