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Freedom to Choose

Daniel Auteuil, who turns 40 this year, has reached the point where he is recognized in France as un grand acteur --a respected artist in the field of acting. Much of this acclaim stems from his portrayal of the peasant Ugolin in Claude Berri’s “Jean De Florette” and “Manon of the Spring” (1985).

“This has brought me true freedom,” Auteuil happily admits, “the freedom to choose my projects.” To choose and be choosy: working mostly on the stage, he takes a film role every 18 months.

In his latest movies, Coline Serreau’s “Mama, There’s a Man in Your Bed,” he plays Romuald, a Paris-based CEO so immersed in corporate life he’s blind to the conspiracies that surround him. Forcing his eyes open to this chicanery--and to life itself--is Juliette (Firmine Richard), a poor, black mother of five, who as the night cleaning woman happens upon discarded office secrets.

That the two eventually fall into a romantic relationship proved startling in France during this time of increasing intolerance for its Arab and black population, Auteuil says. “It’s a film about differences between human beings and how to accept your fellow man.”

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Casting a maternal, heavy-set woman deliberately accentuated these differences. “A beautiful black woman would have been easier to accept. But this is about loving the beauty inside people.”

As with Serreau’s previous film, “Three Men and a Cradle,” Disney is preparing an American remake. Richard Dreyfuss will play Auteuil’s role.

This American mania for remaking successful French comedies brings a bemused smile to Auteuil. “Maybe our films are only rough drafts for the finished work to be done in America.” Then with a glean in his eye he adds, “Or maybe the imagination of American screenwriters is running dry.”


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