Photography by Laura Marie Cieplik
Styling by Hugo Toucas
He may have had his breakout role in only two years ago in BPM, a film about the AIDS epidemic in Paris in the 1990s, but this year is proving to be his biggest yet. Here, Valois talks to up about his upcoming slew of unexpected roles as well as his first turn in the director’s chair.
YALE BRESLIN: Were you always drawn to acting?
ARNAUD VALOIS: Growing up, I was always putting on a show for my family and friends. So, naturally, I went to acting school when I moved to Paris at 18. I come to life on a stage or in front of a camera, and I love working with a director and exchanging with other actors. The intimacy you share for a few weeks or months is exhilarating. I love bringing someone’s story to life by adding my own experience and feelings, becoming one with the character I’m supposed to be playing.
YB: What did it mean for you to star in BPM and be part of such an intimate story about the HIV/AIDS epidemic?
AV: Growing up in the ’90s, the AIDS epidemic was everywhere—on TV, in the newspapers—and people were dying. Then, as a gay man, it is part of your everyday life. You know someone, you have friends who know someone, and so on. Landing such a role meant a lot to me. Little did I know then that it was going to be the big break I had been waiting for.
YB: How did you bring your experiences as a gay man to the role of Nathan?
AV: I had to lose a lot weight because I was quite beefy at the time. Robin Campillo, the director, wanted me to look strong yet fragile. Nathan is very caring like me. People tend to lean on me for comfort. The hardest part was seeing Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, who plays my boyfriend Sean on screen, lose all that weight in real life, as he was slowly dying in the movie. I had seen it on TV or in the papers, but never in real life. Having to kill him at the end, I’m not sure I would be able to do that to my boyfriend. It was all very emotional and hard to leave behind as I left the set to go home.
YB: How has your career changed since the acclaim you received for BPM?
AV: It’s brought a lot of attention from a lot people and a lot of work, but luckily, I have both feet firmly on the ground, so the instant fame hasn’t gone to my head. I’m humble and happy, enjoying every minute of it. I’ve been meeting and working with a lot of great actors and directors.
TANK GIVENCHY, PANTS DIOR MEN
JUMPSUIT LOUIS VUITTON MEN'S
YB: What would you like to see happen as LGBTQ representation increases in the film industry?
AV: It’s already changed a lot in the past few years. You see a lot more gay characters in mainstream films and TV shows. Who you sleep with in real life shouldn’t matter, only your talent and what you bring to the role. I guess I would love to see more out and gay actors and actresses land lead roles in big blockbuster movies.
YB: Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
AV: Method actors, like Christian Bale, who can go through drastic physical change for the sake of a role they have to play.
YB: What is your favorite thing about France?
AV: Our history, our culture, our food, our cinema. It’s tough to be French at the moment, but it still makes me very proud.
YB: What kind of roles do you want to play in the future?
AV: I’d love to play one of the X-Men or a bad guy in a Bond movie.
YB: Do you have any exciting projects in the works?
AV: I play the husband-to-be of Emma Roberts in Paradise Hills by Alice Waddington, which generated quite a buzz at the last Sundance Festival. I’m currently filming with Marine Vacth in Belgium for a TV series produced by the Franco-German TV channel Arte, and I have two movies coming out in September, Méduse by Sophie Levy and Si demain... by Fabienne Godet. I’m also going to direct my first short film, and there are a few more projects in the pipeline, both in France and abroad.