From Léon Blum to Jean Moulin, via Romain Gary, this Monday in L'Enchanteur on France 2, Charles Berling has played great men of our history on several occasions. He also slipped into Robert Badinter's lawyer's dress - the real one! - for L'Abolition, a TV film broadcast in 2009 on France 2, on which the two men collaborated. Contacted at midday, the actor responded to us with very lively emotion in his voice.
What does Robert Badinter mean to you?
He means so much. He is a man who had enormous courage and who knew how to do politics without being dependent on the fluctuations of public opinion. For having interpreted him and hearing him tell the story of his fight for the death penalty in particular... For eight years, he was very much in the minority, insulted, and he always stayed the course with Élisabeth Badinter, who also is a great intellectual force. He is a man who comes from the Second World War. He was 14 when his father was taken away by the Gestapo. He never forgot it, it founded his spirit of justice, of absolute defender of democracy, of progressive values. His systematic refusal to claim death as a solution. He is a damaged human from the start. And it’s a generation that is now disappearing with him. I feel very orphaned by this man's magnificent lighting. He brought something fundamental in respecting the deep values that we can have.
You worked together on the dialogues for the TV film...
Yes, I had the immense chance to meet him through Abolition. To really meet him, because when you play someone like him, it counts. And we saw each other a lot before filming, during and even after. He told me a lot of things. What happens in the courts is not written, he explained it to me. He participated enormously. It was fundamental. It was a work of memory but also a very joyful work. I understood even more the weight of words. And I was very honored because he lent me his dress for the shoot. It’s a sign of confidence.
Did you see each other often?
Yes. We weren't close but we saw each other many times. I loved talking with him. Who wouldn’t have loved it?
Wasn’t it too difficult to play someone you admired so much?
Meeting him allowed me to approach him, to understand him. Afterwards, I made my interpretation of his journey, and of his journey with Élisabeth. Once I got into filming, I said to myself, “I did my best, if he doesn’t like it, there’s nothing I can do.” It turns out he was happy with the film. And it’s one of my greatest pride.