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Posts Tagged ‘screenwriting’

Heroes of the Civil Service: An Interview with Antonin Baudry

April 2, 2014 | by

Antonin Baudry 2013 photo credit clarisse rebotier

Antonin Baudry, 2013. Photo: Clarisse Rebotier

In 2010, a graphic novel, Quai D’Orsay, was published in France under a pseudonym, causing a quiet sensation. Set in, of all places, the Foreign Ministry, Quai D’Orsay starred a young speechwriter frantically learning on the job—the novel featured recognizable public figures, including the foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, who famously said non to the war in Iraq.

In France, graphic novels, or comic books (bandes dessinées), are a revered venue for pointed satire. The bestseller’s author, it turned out, was a wunderkind former staffer for Villepin named Antonin Baudry. A man of varied passions—board games, Metallica, Greek philosophy—Baudry is currently the French Cultural Counselor for the U.S. Last fall, he adapted the graphic novel for the big screen. The resulting film, The Minister, became an instant hit in France, earning the rookie screenwriter a nomination for a César, the French Oscar. The Minister is now showing (under the title The French Minister) at select theaters in the U.S., including the IFC Center, in New York; the graphic novel is available in English under the title Weapons of Mass Diplomacy.

Sitting in his cavernous office in the French embassy, overlooking Central Park, the informal diplomat says he would love to try another graphic novel “on globalism, set in the Middle Ages.”

Both in the graphic novel and the movie, you make it seem as if you hadn’t the slightest qualification to write speeches for the foreign minister. Is that true?

Yes. I didn’t have the background that all the people there had at all. I had never met a politician before. I had never met a diplomat. What happened was that Dominique de Villepin was looking for young people from different universes to write for him. He heard through a mutual friend that I had done master’s theses in math and literature, and he wanted to meet me. I totally panicked. I said to my friend, Why did you do this to me? I had to buy a suit. The minister received me at the Quai D’Orsay, and it was just like being hypnotized. He explained a lot of things to me and everything seemed clear, and then when I left, I couldn’t remember a thing. And there was this time pressure. He said I had to answer within twenty-four hours because we were possibly on the eve of a Third World War. I was twenty-six, and I thought, Why not? I’d done academic writing and I knew I wanted to write novels. I accepted the job because I think many writers have no experience of the world. I once worked for the sanitation department in Berlin, cleaning the streets at five in the morning. I loved it for the same reason—it gave me the chance to observe another universe instead of staying in my room, contemplating myself. Read More »

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A Week in Culture: Matthew Specktor, Writer and Editor

May 25, 2011 | by

Photography by Lisa Jane Persky.

DAY ONE

11:00 A.M. Where better to start a Los Angeles–based culture diary than on the city’s enpretzeled freeways? I leave an editorial meeting and take the 101 to the 5 to the 10 to Boyle Heights, en route to David Kipen’s Libros Schmibros, “a community bookstore and lending library.” It’s pretty much the best bookstore in the world, not so much for its scope (its stock is superb, but it’s an average-size storefront), but for its curation and spirit. Not only is every book in the shop one that any sane reader would covet, but if you happen to empty your pockets while you’re there, you’re free to borrow books you don’t buy. Kipen is clearly some sort of a pinko, but if you can get your head around it—a store that lets you take out works of art on loan—the idea kind of grows on you. (If only someone would make so free and easy with the closely guarded spoils of the music business!) I plan on sending David’s children to college by bankrupting myself in his store. Today’s haul: some replacement Greil Marcuses, swanky hardbacks of Philip Roth’s The Counterlife and Our Gang, Leonard Michaels’s Time Out of Mind, Lewis Hyde’s Common as Air, Daniel Fuchs’s The Golden West: Hollywood Stories. Also, a handsome copy of Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September. The rest I left, just because I was too embarrassed to ask for a dolly to carry it all to my car. (Edit—there’s no store here! I’m making this up. Book lovers, stay away! David, I’ll be back next week.)

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Terry Southern In Full

June 7, 2010 | by

© Steve Schapiro

Last week, Lorin declared June 2010 “Terry Southern Month,” a pronouncement that was greeted with even more excitement and enthusiasm than we had anticipated. (“Hell yeah. One of my faves. Bring on June,” tweeted a reader. Southern “makes me want to go out and do things,” wrote another.) We ran an excerpt from an interview Mike Golden conducted with Southern that appeared in the spring of 1996 (issue 138).

After the jump is, as promised, the exchange in full, where Southern discusses making Easy Rider with Dennis Hopper, and the missing pie-fight scene from Dr. Strangelove:

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