BAZ BAMIGBOYE: The Serpent swaps murder for drug gangs

BAZ BAMIGBOYE: The Serpent swaps murder for drug gangs

Tahar Rahim, star of The Serpent — one of the BBC’s most popular dramas ever — has found a way to make crime pay.

He will portray one of the drug kingpins behind the French connection, an underworld system that put dangerous narcotics on to American streets.

The untitled television series will be about Corsican gangsters Antoine and Barthelemy Guerini, known as the Guerini Brothers. 

Tahar Rahim (pictured at Cannes Film Festival) will portray a drug kingpin behind the French connection, an underworld system that put dangerous narcotics on to American streets

The untitled television series will be about Corsican gangsters Antoine and Barthelemy Guerini. Pictured: Tahar Rahim during the opening ceremony of Cannes Film Festival

‘They ruled the Marseilles drug trade after the war and into the 1960s and 1970s,’ Rahim told me in Cannes, where he is on the Film Festival jury led by Spike Lee.

The screenplay for the show is still being written, the 40-year-old Paris-based star said.

‘I will portray one of them — but I cannot tell you which one until we are ready. We’re at such an early stage and we do not plan to film until next year.’

He stressed that it’s a different story to the one told in 1971 thriller The French Connection, about two New York cops who break up an international drug-smuggling operation.

In The Serpent, Rahim (pictured with Jenna Louise Coleman) portrayed Charles Sobhraj, a serial killer, fraudster and thief who preyed on hippies travelling through Asia in the 1970s

Rahim’s breakthrough came in Jacques Audiard’s powerful movie A Prophet (pictured), a hit at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival

The movie won five Oscars, including best actor for Gene Hackman and best picture, and remains a stunning piece of film-making (both it and its equally impressive sequel are on Disney+).

Rahim said that his series, which is being backed by Netflix, will explore how the Guerini brothers fought for the Resistance during the Nazi occupation of France. 

‘Some of their wartime comrades became elected leaders in Marseilles,’ he said. 

The brothers leveraged those alliances, which helped them gain control of the Marseilles dockyards, where officials turned a blind eye to their activities shipping heroin to the United States.

In The Serpent, Rahim portrayed Charles Sobhraj, a serial killer, fraudster and thief who preyed on hippies travelling through Asia in the 1970s. 

Rahim also won acclaim for his performance in Kevin Macdonald’s film The Mauritanian, with Jodie Foster (both pictured) starring as his lawyer

The Mauritanian followed the true story of a prisoner called Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was held at Guantanamo Bay for 14 years

The actor told me he enjoyed working with ‘my partner in crime’ Jenna Coleman.

Rahim also won acclaim for his performance in Kevin Macdonald’s film The Mauritanian, the true story of a prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay for 14 years (with Jodie Foster as his lawyer).

His breakthrough came in Jacques Audiard’s powerful movie A Prophet, a hit at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

SHAZAM! BUSY HELEN TAKES A SUPERHERO BREAK TO FLY IN

Helen Mirren has been taking the red-carpeted steps at the nightly Cannes Film Festival premieres, in the Grand Theatre Lumiere, at a run. The steeper the stairs, the faster her pace.

‘I say ‘Action!’ in my head and just keep going — and going — till I reach the top,’ Mirren joked, when I mentioned this.

The actress has been involved in several projects during the pandemic, including wartime drama White Bird: A Wonder Story, opposite Gillian Anderson. 

It was shot in the Czech Republic for director Marc Forster.

Helen Mirren (pictured) has been taking the red-carpeted steps at the nightly Cannes Film Festival premieres, in the Grand Theatre Lumiere, at a run

Mirren told me she’d taken a break from shooting Shazam! Fury Of The Gods in the States in order to see films at the festival with her director husband Taylor Hackford.

I liked the first Shazam! movie that Warner Bros released in 2019 — it was pure popcorn fun. Mirren chuckled and said: ‘It is fun. And I enjoy working with a young company.’

Another of her films, The Duke, in which she starred with Jim Broadbent, was shown at last year’s Venice Film Festival. I visited the set in Leeds when director Roger Michell was shooting it back in 2019. 

It’s based on a true story about a portrait of the Duke of Wellington that was stolen from the National Portrait Gallery in the 1960s.

It’s an utterly delightful picture; beautifully observant of Great British down-to-earth people.

Film distributor Pathe were smart to hang on to it and wait for a UK cinema release on September 3.

Mirren (pictured) said she’d taken a break from shooting Shazam! Fury Of The Gods in the States in order to see films at the festival with her director husband Taylor Hackford

Mirren said that The Duke would have an American gala at the Telluride Film Festival, way up in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, also in early September.

The Oscar-winning actress, who turns 76 later this month, said she hasn’t visited England since before the pandemic.

In fact, I’m pretty certain on that occasion we had tea together in Mayfair. As you do.

‘I do miss family, and the theatre,’ she said. She wants to return to the stage but is not sure about the timing. ‘I’d love to do a 30-minute play!’ she said, only half joking. 

Seeing the look on my face, she added: ‘OK then. I’d love to do a 60-minute play.’ The great dame would be luminous, no matter how long she spent on the boards.

SOPHIE GOES TO TOWN IN A WELL-CUT GOWN…

French actress Sophie Marceau told me the secret of Gallic glamour is to keep it simple and ‘not overthink it’.

She said: ‘It’s not really a secret, but simplicity is the key.’ That, and a well- cut gown.

French actress Sophie Marceau (pictured) graced the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival for the world premiere of Francois Ozon’s film Everything Went Fine

Ms Marceau graced the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival for the world premiere of Francois Ozon’s film Everything Went Fine, in which she plays the daughter of a wealthy aesthete (Andre Dussollier) who, after suffering a stroke, asks her to help him end his life.

After seeing The Father, I have found it very difficult to sit through movies about death.

But Marceau, who has always been much more than 007 arm candy (opposite Pierce Brosnan in The World Is Not Enough) or the token femme in action films (Mel Gibson’s Braveheart) finds touches of humour in the sadness, with the help of some gentle coaxing from Ozon.

She and her co-stars Dussollier and Geraldine Pailhas (who plays her sister) allow welcome shafts of light to permeate the darkness — so much so that I laughed out loud a few times at some of the tart exchanges between the family members.

Oh, and there’s a scene- stealing moment when Charlotte Rampling, playing the estranged wife, visits her husband in hospital. Her lip curls as she mutters scornfully ‘your father doesn’t look that ill’. 

Festival favourites such as Isabelle Huppert and Diane Kruger (pictured) supported a French film that speaks a language we all understand when it comes to frank honesty

Within the context of the film, that tells you all you need to know about that relationship.

It was lovely to see festival favourites such as Isabelle Huppert and Diane Kruger supporting a French film that speaks a language we all understand when it comes to frank honesty and common sense.

WATCH OUT FOR 

Todd Haynes, who screened his excellent documentary Velvet Underground, about the cultural forces that brought together Lou Reed, John Cale, Maureen Tucker and all of Andy Warhol’s Factory posse. 

It’s so insightful — and some of the comments about the counter-culture are brutal. I was never a devotee of the Velvet Underground (though I knew some of their music), so a lot of what Haynes and his associates uncover is a revelation. Plus, I like folk reflecting on their art from a distance. 

It’s great to see Haynes working with long-time producer Christine Vachon (the first time I spotted Vachon’s credit on a movie was for Superstar, the short film Haynes made in 1988 about Karen Carpenter). Velvet Underground will be streamed on Apple TV+.

Pedro Almodovar, who presented Jodie Foster with an honorary Palme d’Or this week. 

The director flew in from Spain, where he is editing his latest film, Parallel Mothers. 

‘It’s about mothers and their babies that are born on the same day,’ the legendary filmmaker told me.

Pedro Almodovar (pictured), presented Jodie Foster with an honorary Palme d’Or this week. The director flew in from Spain, where he is editing his latest film, Parallel Mothers

He said the film was shot during the pandemic. ‘We all wore masks. A lot of masks.’ But masks won’t feature in the actual movie which stars Almodovar’s muse Penelope Cruz. Milena Smit, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon and Rossy de Palma also have key roles in the picture, which the director said he hopes to finish by December.

Val — another must-see documentary — made from thousands of video tapes the screen artist Val Kilmer shot at auditions, on sets or at home with his family. 

Kilmer was too ill (after treatment for throat cancer) to travel to Cannes, so his children from his marriage to Joanne Whalley, Mercedes and Jack (who narrates his father’s words), presented the film at the festival. It will be on Amazon Prime next month.

Kilmer and I clashed a couple of times over the years regarding a few of the duds he made (he made some fab movies, too!). But I was very moved by Val.  

It’s a cautionary tale for up-and-coming actors who believe the baloney about them being a star at the age of 21. Or was it 12?

LUMA, STAR OF HER OWN MOO-VIE

Andrea Arnold’s captivating BBC Film, Cow, film follows Luma (pictured), a British milking cow, through two births and the daily grind of what a poor cow has to do for her supper

Spending childhood summers at my uncle’s dairy farm in Okehampton, Devon, allowed me, I think, to ‘udder-stand’ and appreciate the full power of Andrea Arnold’s captivating BBC Film, Cow, which had a special gala in Cannes yesterday. 

The film follows Luma (aka No 29), a British milking cow, through two births and the daily grind of what a poor cow has to do for her supper.

The wider point is: what are cows for? And are they being treated right?

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