"I had less trouble shooting this movie than some of my recent video parts"

Behind-the-scenes with Matthias Dandois on MILF

22 May 2018

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Intro and Interview by Daniel Mini | Images courtesy of Matthias Dandois

For a long time we've realized that BMX can 'sometimes' lead to anything, and Matthias Dandois is one rider who definitely wouldn't disagree. As one of the most endearing and colorful characters in BMX he has often gone comfortably beyond the narrow borders of our relatively small world - so now it's maybe not so surprising to see him land a role as an actor in a big movie, in an unplanned career addition. Maybe like those other pillars of 'action sports' such as skateboarding's Jason Lee or one time BMXer, Spike Jonze, we'll have to get used to seeing the name of our flatland legend on movie posters. To learn more about his experience we went behind the scenes with Matthias on his first project, MILF the movie, and caught up with both him and the director, Axelle Laffont.

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Matthias, you surprised the world of BMX by appearing as an actor in the movie, MILF. Can you explain how you landed the role?

The director, Axelle Laffont was invited to the SOSH Freestyle cup last June and she saw the finals of the event. After the contest she came up to me and said she was doing a casting for her movie and asked me if I wanted to try. Two weeks later I passed my first movie casting ever in Paris. I got called back for a second casting with Marie Josée Croze (one of the most productive actors in France). Axelle gave me a three hour acting lesson, three days before I did that second casting. It worked and a few weeks later I got a phone call saying I got the part.

That's pretty amazing. You never thought about being an actor before that? No one ever suggested it to you?

I mean not really. I guess it's a lot of people's dream to have a part in a movie somehow, I was that way I guess, but I never thought that would actually happen. I know I’ve always been comfortable in front of cameras and I’m not shy around people, but acting is something different. 

Did the actors train you on the spot or did you take classes before shooting?

I had 20 hours of comedy lessons with a coach a month before we started shooting the movie. Acting is hard and it’s a real job. She taught me so many tips to feel better about the whole thing. Basically when someone points a camera at you, your whole body freezes, it's a human reaction. I had to learn how to relax and look natural. The eye intensity is also super hard to control, I had to work on that a lot. I learnt the script as well as I could until I was super comfortable with it, and so many more little things. It was like three years of comedy school squeezed into an intensive 20 hours of lessons. Back to school baby.

How was it meeting the actresses for the first time?

I first met all the actresses during the script lectures in Paris. It went pretty smoothly. Axelle is a really open-hearted and happy person and she knows how to put out a good vibe, Marie Josée is amazing and Virginie is really friendly too. It was like we were old friends ten minutes after we met. 

"I know I’ve always been comfortable in front of cameras and I’m not shy around people, but acting is something different."

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How did you feel when you were shooting your very first non-BMX scene? 

The first few days of the shoot were actually a nightmare. Twenty days before we started shooting the movie, I sprained my ankle pretty bad at the Voodoo Jam, with a big cut on the side of my foot. I flew over the Atlantic three times to go to FISE Edmonton after that, and by the time I went to the south of France to start shooting the movie, my foot was killing me. I didn’t wanna say anything cause I knew something was wrong. The first day ever we shot a scene on a little boat. My foot was fucking blue and red and so swollen. I did my best but Axelle saw something was wrong. She noticed my foot and freaked out and they brought me to the hospital. They found out I had a really bad staph infection. At first the doctor told me I wouldn't be able to walk for the next three months after surgery that next morning. I was fucked, the movie was fucked, everything was fucked. The surgeon came to my room the next morning, looked at my foot and gave me some antibiotics. I stayed at the hospital for 3 days and my foot went back to normal. They squeezed loads of puss out of it and I was ready to go haha. The first scene after that was a sex scene with Marie Josee. At that point I didn’t care anymore, I was just happy to be on set and healthy.

Ouch... often during interviews even experienced actors says that love scenes are the most difficult to shoot. Did it cause you any problems?

It was stressful because I didn’t know what to expect, the first thing that came to my mind was if I was gonna have a boner or not haha! We talked about the scene with Marie Josée before we did it. She reassured me about the whole thing and that it was gonna be fine. The crew is really small during a love scene: only the director, the DOP, the first assistant and the sound crew. They make it as comfortable as it can be. Axelle wanted the scene to be beautiful and not trashy at all, so it was pretty easy. It went super smooth. Thanks to the whole crew for that.

With BMX you're still used to shooting videos, but shooting a movie is certainly a different thing?

You know what, I had less trouble shooting that movie than some of my recent video parts haha. I’m a nightmare when it comes to getting decent clips, my apologies to everyone who has ever pointed a camera at me. 

I’m half joking there. When you’ve a big part in a feature film, they treat you like a king. All you gotta do is go on set when they call your name and do your thing and go back to your lodge/dressing room. It's not like you’re freaking out in front of a big rail or a 15 stair-set risking your life. It was honestly pretty chill, Axelle was there to tell me what to do, and she is so amazing at directing people. It went as smooth as it could get.

"I was fucked, the movie was fucked, everything was fucked."

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Were you able to ride between scenes or was it forbidden due to insurance?

I don't think I was supposed to ride but I did it anyway. I went to Japan for the Flatark contest in the middle of the shoot so I needed to get a bit in shape for that. It was a nightmare with insurance apparently but they somehow made it work. They told me that usually NEVER happens. Everybody was pretty freaked out about it but I made it work, haha.

In France we all know Axelle Laffont as an actress and comedian and what we love is that she is capable of everything on stage or on a TV set. How does she behave when she directs a movie?

Axelle is an incredible person on so many levels. She is not crazy at all in real life, it’s just a character she has when she’s on TV. On set, she’s just a normal human like you and me, super positive and brings a good vibe all the time. She had to manage a team of 60 people and she killed it. It was her first time as a director and it’s not easy at all. Much respect to her for that.

You have met very closely to Axelle Laffont, Marie-Jose Croze, and Virginie Ledoyen. Are you aware that you have lived the fantasy of many French people?

Haha I don’t know about that. It’s all fun and games man, people are making such a big deal about meeting or interacting with famous people. They’re just normal human beings. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never been a fan boy. If someone’s cool as fuck then I’m gonna be cool, If someone has an attitude then I can be a dick too. Marie Josée and Virginie were beyond cool with me and the rest of the crew, it was like we were at a vacation camp the whole time. I fucking loved it.

" If someone’s cool as fuck then I’m gonna be cool, If someone has an attitude then I can be a dick too."

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" I’m still a BMX rider before everything though."

Are any of the other actors who play your friends beginners too? 

Victor Meutelet is the youngest but he already has a lot of experience in acting. Wael Sersoub acted once before that and did a bunch of modeling jobs, they knew what they were doing and they helped me a lot too. They are not from the action sports scene whatsoever - really cool dudes though. They played an important part in this experience running smoothly.

Were the bike scenes that we will see in the movie planned in the script, or were they added later by Axelle Laffont?

The bike scenes were added to the scenario after they chose me for the movie. I was hyped on that for sure!

Did this experience make you want to continue acting? Would you see this as something to get more into after BMX? 

I just signed with a big agency that take care of actors (VMA) which is a pretty big deal apparently - I know nothing haha. I would love to continue acting for sure - it was a fun experience. I’m still a BMX rider before everything though; I can’t live without it and I still have some fun years of riding ahead of me.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Not really. Merci Axelle for everything, you’re a beautiful human. Thanks to my parents for putting up with me. Peace and Love.

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An interview with Axelle Laffont (Director)

Axelle, first thing everybody in the small BMX world wants to know : how did you meet Matthias and how did you come up with the idea of offering him a role in Milf?

So if every BMXer is asking the question I'm happy to answer (laughs). I was invited to a sports event in Marseille, and I saw Matthias do a BMX show. I thought he was beautiful and very elegant. When he spoke on the microphone he was comfortable and charismatic and I proposed him the casting of my movie. It's that simple. Then he came to the casting he was immediately very fair and very natural in his acting, but he obviously had a lack of technique. I coached him twice and he came back once for a 'call-back' session with Marie Josée Croze. He was just perfect and I decided to hire him for Julien's character.

What's your relationship with the world of so-called 'extreme sports'?

I love a lot of sports but I did not know BMX at all. I found it sublime and when I chose Matthias I added scenes where he would ride in the film. I could not miss this.

You have a lot of experience in the show-biz industry but it's your very first film as a director. How did you feel before the first time saying "action"?

In fact this is not my very first achievement as a director because I had already made a short movie and co-directed (with my brother Fabrice Laffont) my mini show called Addict for Canal +. On the other hand it's the first time that I made a feature film and it has been the most beautiful professional experience I have experienced so far. It's always a highlight when you say "action" for the first time...

We can imagine that the atmosphere on set was very good. How did you experience it with the added pressure of being responsible for such a production? 

The mood on this movie was I think, pretty magical. Between the place and the weather conditions, that were in itself very nice, a very happy crew of actors and actresses and an ultra-pro technical team, it really was a joy. I was in a bubble with this incredible team and I was so happy that I had the impression that nothing could reach me.

How was Matthias to lead? Was he a good student? We never have to worry about his BMX scenes, but did he do well as an actor?

First of all Matthias is now a friend. I am extremely proud that he is in my movie and having been able to start his future acting career. He was a beginner in this field but already naturally very talented. He worked really hard and most of all he integrated everything that I said to him when I was directing, so it was very nice to work with him.

"Matthias was a beginner in this field but was already very naturally talented."- Axelle Laffont

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Matthias Dandois is supported by Official DIG Partners: Haro | Vans