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Aujourd’hui en France”: Interview with Hugh LaurieAujourd’hui en France”: fragmenty wywiadu z Hugh Laurie

He came at the editorial office of the “Parisien”- “Aujourd’hui en France” 15 minutes late. But we forgive Hugh Laurie everything! How not when he excuse himself straightaway to the 6 readers meeting him. The British star gather together 9 300 000 TV viewers for the 4th season (which just finished being aired in France) and is number 2 top sales with his book “Tout est sous contrôle” (The Gun Seller) sold in France since January.

In Paris for a few days for promoting his book, the man is easy-going, courteous, and ready to listen to others. Far away from the cynical, limped and arrogant genius of diagnosis which he plays since 2004, when he gets out from his black sedan with driver and tinted glass, Hugh shows off his fifty years (in June) relaxed. Brown trousers and well-matched suede shoes, black sweater and cap on head, the actor shakes hands with everyone, cracks a joke, and he’s surprised from his book success in France.

During the two hours interview, he also speaks a bit French, French he control better than he makes everybody think: he will respond several questions without waiting for the translation! On TV, House terrorize his interns to save patients, in real, Mister Laurie seduce without prescription.

How do you explain the success of House MD?

HL: this TV series is really well-written. Since 5 years, I never read any other script better done than a standard House MD episode. The humor, the ideas, the complexity, the philosophy of this series is fascinating. The guy is being liked because we all want to be free from social conventions. Everybody dreams about that.

To you, is he an angel or a devil?

HL: Ah! (he thinks) He’s not an angel, but he’s on the angels’ side, he works for them. He isn’t also a devil. In spite of all his flaws, I have a lot of respect and affection for him.

Does he pass on his patient hope or despair?

HL: In his mind, hope is on a second level. Only survival and results count. Yet the idea of recovery favour patients’ recovery.

He lacks of compassion and humanity, is he the picture of a good doctor?

HL: He’s not an ideal doctor, but I don’t agree that he lacks of compassion and humanity. He doesn’t feel the need to show it, it’s different. He doesn’t look for the others’ approval because he’s confident in his intellect.

Would you have loved to be a doctor?

HL: I would have loved! My father was a doctor, he brought me with him at the London hospital in 1977. I nearly change my studies to become a doctor. Now, when I think about that, from the moment I play House, I will have had the necessary years to validate a doctor license… But at this time, I was too lazy.

What do you think about playing a doctor who depends on drugs?

HL: His pain is real, he needs his drugs. But to exercise with talent, could he do without them and go on with pain?

How did you familiarize yourself with medical universe?

HL: Before starting the shooting, I wanted to spend some time in an American hospital because practices are very different from English or French hospital. But I couldn’t do it. On set, there are real doctors that I can ask questions: “when I say this, what does it means?” I need to understand everything when I’m playing it. In ten or twenty minutes, I learn how cardiovascular system works. But I forget everything twenty minutes after.

What did you bring to the character?

HL: I really don’t know… The creator, David Shore, had been inspired by Sherlock Holmes, who was a violinist, and I play myself (piano, guitar and saxophone). Music shows the logic side of House but also improvisation and ability to surprise someone.

You did bring an other accessory, the trainers that you collect….

HL: At the hospital, it’s a habit to wear trainers because you’re standing up all the time. But I found really poignant for this character, who obviously can’t run or play basketball, to wear this kind of shoes. It’s a way to show he wants to be free.

You’re British, but you play an American. What did you need to change in your language or in your behaviour?

HL: House character was American since the beginning. I tried to play it with my English accent during ten seconds, and they said to me it wasn’t working. There are enough obstacles that divide House and his audience, he’s alone, sarcastic, bitter… He’s an alien. No needs to add a foreign culture. To me, speaking with American accent is the most difficult thing on the show. Just as limping.

Are you disappointed that Kal Penn leaved the show to be in Barrack Obama’s team?

HL: I can’t be disappointed that he wants to work for his government. I admire his courage to take a so bold decision. I’m not interested in politics. I already don’t like the public side of being an actor. For Politicians it’s worse. Also for sportsmen: I wouldn’t be David Beckham for example.

How long will you play House?

HL: We did about a hundred of episodes and we will carry on until public is here. A movie theatre? It will need to be really different from the series, but I can’t see what it will bring for House MD to be in theatre. But I’m open to the idea.

Do you realize that Thomas Lang, the hero of your novel, is like House, although you did write it 8 years before House MD?

HL: To me, these two characters are very different. Thomas Lang is an optimistic man, maybe tired, cynical, but he’s a happy man. Contrary to House who is very miserable, tormented and bitter. On the other hand, they share the same humor and the same ability to listen.

What do you find attractive in these ironical and cynical characters? Are you like them?

HL: I might be like them… These two men are mid-life. When you’re fifty, a little cynicism is unavoidable. I don’t think I’m cynical, anyway not as much as House. But I share the humor of these two characters. Thomas Lang is closest to the real me.

You write that book in 1996, why was it released in France only on January 2009?

HL (answers in French): I don’t know! This had to be with the success of House MD. I’m more famous, and also is the book. Publishing develop much less quickly than TV. It’s unbelievable to have wait that long, but it’s a good Christmas gift.

What did it bring you towards writing?

HL: I had started to write a private diary, but soon I was bored with my own live to the point I didn’t even want to read it by myself! So I started to make up explosions, car chases, beautiful women. It started as a game. I wrote without a particular plan, a few sheets per day that I showed my wife. It was a solitary work. I nearly became insane. But it was exciting to see the real world disappear to let place to my imagination.

You’re in the middle of writing your second novel. Will it be in the same mood?

HL: This kind of novel, you know, you write either one or six. I choose to make six of them. The second one being difficult to complete, I might go straight for the third! But yes, I will carry on this style which I love, because I always loved thrillers Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and… (he thinks of a French author) Georges Simenon! (who is Belgian by the way!)

Your novel is going to be adapted into a movie, will you be involved in?

HL: In fact I did the adaptation for the United Artists Studio. But they went into liquidation… maybe because of my script! MGM bought them, and then Sony bought MGM. My little movie became a very little thing in a big consortium. I now hope the situation will be clearer and that I can take part as an actor, author or director.

You live in United States and your family in England, how do you live trough this distance?

HL: In airplane! We do a lot of round trip between England and United States. The children are studying in England. If everything had taken place ten years sooner I could have bring them with me. Today, they’re grown-up, they have their lives in England.

How do you manage with your celebrity?

HL: Not well. When I went in Spain, where the series is very popular, I had to go with a bodyguard. I’m not at ease with this idea. Now we have recording devices everywhere, an evil invention, all notion of private live had disappeared. That reminds me of KGB era: everyone can spy on, take photos, know what music you’re listening to, what movie you like. It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe there won’t be any consequences from all of this!

You said you were too lazy to do medical studies, but you did long anthropology and archaeology studies. Do you regret your choice for acting?

HL: How do you know all of this?… I went to university more for rowing than studying. My father won a gold medal at the Olympic Games. I wanted to be like him. So I focused on rowing. Now, if I had carried on with my studies, I might be in New Guinea with a hat and a whip….

You’re a musician, an actor, an author, which one of these activities do you prefer?

HL: I always prefer the one I’m not doing at the time! When I perform House I dream of writing and of wearing my own clothes. But when I’m writing, this activity is so lonely that I dream to be with other people and act. It’s difficult to explain. Music will be my ideal. I will love to end in a jazz trio.

Big thanks to G. Willmore for the translation !

Jak sądzisz, dlaczego House odniósł tak duży sukces?

Jest bardzo dobrze napisany. Nie miałem w ręce lepiej napisanych scenariuszy, niż te do House’a.  Humor, przypadki, elementy filozofii – House jest bardzo złożony, a to sprawia, że fascynujący. To postać, która wzbudza sympatię dlatego, że nie jest stereotypowa, nie przejmuje się żadnymi normami społecznymi. Każdy chciałby móc się tak zachowywać.

Myślisz, że bliżej mu do anioła czy do diabła?

House na pewno nie jest święty, jednak nie jest jednoznacznie zły. Bardzo szanuję tę postać.

Brakuj w nim jakiegokolwiek współczucia i ludzkich odruchów. Czy taki powinien być dobry lekarz?

Na pewno nie jest idealnym lekarzem, ale nie mogę się zgodzić z brakiem współczucia i ludzkich odruchów.  Po prostu tego nie okazuje, a to różnica.  Jest pewny siebie, nie potrzebuje cudzych pochwał.

Czy Ty chciałbyś być lekarzem?

Oczywiście! Mój ojciec był lekarzem. Pamiętam, jak zabrał mnie do szpitala w Londynie w 1977 roku. O mało co nie poszedłem na medycynę. Jednak byłem wtedy zbyt leniwy.

A co sądzisz o graniu lekarza z nałogiem?

Ból House’a jest realny, on potrzebuje leków. Nie wiem, czy poradziłby sobie z bólem bez nich.

Co sam wnosisz do tej postaci?

Nie myślałem nad tym. David Shore inspirował się Sherlockiem Holmesem, który grał na skrzypcach, ja sam gram na pianinie, gitarze i saksofonie.  Muzyka pokazuje logiczną stronę House’a, ale jednocześnie jego umiejętność do improwizacji i zaskakiwania.

Jesteś muzykiem, aktorem i pisarzem. Która z tych trzech rzeczy sprawia Ci największą przyjemność?

Zawsze wolę to, czego akurat nie robię! Kiedy gram House’a, marzy mi się pisanie i noszenie własnych ubrań, z kolei kiedy piszę, nie mogę się doczekać, kiedy pojawię się na planie.  Ciężko to wyjaśnić.  Chciałbym też grać w jakimś trio jazzowym.