From flop-churner to star-director of the highest-grossing French film of all time, Dany Boon is France’s comeback kid
Meet Dany Boon: hitmaker, mastermind behind France’s highest-grossing film of all time and only (we’re taking an educated guess here) superstar to beat a retreat to Los Angeles “in search of anonymity”. Bizarrely, the paparazzi capital of the world has become French megastars’ go-to hidey-hole. A national hero in more ways than one (he ‘saved’ Diane Kruger from the gaping maw of a leopard on set in Kenya!), it’s near impossible to remember a time when the ‘triple threat’ actor-writer-director wasn’t a household name – and so recognisable he had to cross oceans to go incognito.
Yet, nothing foreshadowed that the working-class Ch’ti (northerner) and son of a cleaner would one day be hailed the French “Midas of comedy” – certainly not his dud-studded CV. The jokester (né Daniel Hamidou) made ends meet moonlighting as a street mime before winning a local stand-up competition and upping sticks to the capital armed with boundless cheek and 10,000 francs – his mother’s entire life savings – to conquer the French public. And he did a decent job of it; though he didn’t make things easy for himself. As chance would have it, an actor by the name of Amidou had already cornered the market. Loath to “trade on his namesake’s fame”, he changed his own to Dany Boon.
While his stand-up career flourished, his foray into cinema proved bumpier. A B-list at best, he totted up bit parts and supporting roles in middling capers – and soon became synonymous with straight-to-VHS/DVD ops. That is, until the unexpected, but game-changing, box-office triumph of his second directorial outing Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis in 2008. Not only did the gag-a-minute farce pull him out of his ratings funk but it is to date the highest-grossing French film of all time. The jury is still out on whether the romp did in fact beat Titanic at the box office – based on entries (a record 20 million!) it fell short but ticket sales tell another story… No matter.
He wasted no time in capitalising on Bienvenue’s success, churning out a string of hits, including Supercondriaque (a thinly-veiled dig at his own hopeless hypochondria) and, more recently, the 2017 César award-winning Raid Dingue, which saw him play a tough-nut elite police squad trainer. Ten years after Bienvenue made cinematic history, the leading man- filmmaker is back with the hotly-anticipated La Ch’tite famille; not a sequel as the name suggests, but another zany riff on the north-south divide theme and nod to his Ch’ti roots. You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy…
10-Second CV: A screen star’s life in one take
Name: Dany Boon
Born: June 26, 1966 in Armentières
Early career: He honed his funny bone as a mime before trying his luck in the capital and embarking on a thriving stand-up career; though his foray into film was haphazard at best.
I know the face… He directed, wrote and starred in megahit Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis.
Where will we see him next? Boon is back with another riff on the north-south divide, La Ch’tite famille. The caper follows Valentin (Boon) a hip Parisian (or is he?) interior designer who reverts to his uncouth Ch’ti self after a car accident leaves him with severe amnesia.
C’est pas vrai! His stage name is a nod to his childhood hero, American explorer Daniel Boone. And he (sort of) saved his co-star Diane Kruger from becoming a leopard’s supper on the set of Un plan parfait in Kenya. Apparently he’d warned her to stay perfectly still should she run into a wild beast, which she did – in her bedroom of all places! She heeded his advice and lived to tell the tale.
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