The enigmatic Eric Cantona refuses to play the game
Think Eric Cantona and you think seagulls, upturned collars and majestic football. He, however, would prefer you didn’t. Which is why, when we interviewed him about his latest film, a French identity-theft thriller called Switch, we were warned he wouldn’t be keen on questions about football and that we should leave those to the end — so we did…
There’s a lot of action in Switch. Would you like to do a big Hollywood blockbuster?
Why not? Ten per cent of my movies, yeah, I would like to, but I don’t want to do that for all my life. Sometimes it’s nice, sometimes it’s interesting, but there are many things that are even more interesting. This movie is not only about that. It’s what I like. You can have a scene of action and also more things, psychological things.
When you announced you wanted to act, were you mainly sent scripts about football?
Yeah, because sometimes people don’t have a lot of imagination. So I was asked to play a teacher of sport or football, but I knew exactly what I didn’t want to do. I tried to take time to have the people accept that you can do something else, and if you play a teacher of sports or football it doesn’t help them to forget what you have done before. I tried to have a different choice and play in a comedy or to play in a dark movie or a thriller, like this one.
You’ve been doing some theatre, too. Do you prefer that to film?
No, it’s just different. But I really love it. I love to play in the movies, of course, but I really love to play in theatre every evening. Each evening is different.
Do you hope one day to be known more for acting than for football?
I don’t do things to be known or recognised, I just want to do. For me, it’s all the same. When I play football it’s a different kind of expression. I tried to play football the way I spoke about football. For me, it was just a kind of expression, and acting is another kind of expression, photography is another kind of expression. If I am recognised I am happy, but I don’t do things to be recognised.
Have you been sent any crazy scripts?
Yeah, some crazy things. Crazy — does it mean ‘bad’ or ‘good’?
No, not strange. I like crazy things, but sometimes people think because it’s crazy, it’s good. No. Sometimes it’s crazy and it’s bad.
Do you want to write and direct movies?
Write? I’m not able to write a script or book. Short things: yes, maybe. Direct, yes. I directed a short movie, I don’t know if you have seen it, but I was proud of it. And maybe I do it again. We will see.
Did your desire to go into acting contribute to you quitting football so early?
No. I knew that I could do something else because when I started in football I was also interested in many things. I knew since the beginning that football will not be the only thing I will do in my life. I didn’t retire to act, but I knew that I would try to do something else.
By today’s standards you retired young, aged 30. Do you ever regret that?
No, because I never stopped doing things which I find interesting to do. I prefer to have a different kind of expression.
Do you miss anything about England and your time here?
I had a great time there, but I don’t have time to think about that and I don’t want to have the time to think about that. It’s why maybe I do so many things. I don’t want to look back. There are so many things in front of me, so many things to do and I will die before I realise all my dreams.
What do you think you learned from it, though?
I learn about life every day, experience of life. My life wasn’t football, my life is not cinema today. My life is every day — I cross people in the street and cross people everywhere. I speak with somebody, I meet somebody, because, my friend, every day I discover things. I want to speak with people, I want to meet people, I want to have dreams, I want to imagine things, I want to be inspired by somebody. I need to feel alive.
You say you don’t like to look back, but do you still follow Manchester United?
Yes, of course. I am number one fan.
Did you follow the problems with Patrice Evra and Luis Suárez?
OK, is the interview all about football or what?
Because we stop now.
No, that’s fine.
You seriously want to talk about football?
No, just asking.
OK, so ask another question or we stop now.
Are you happy to talk about politics?
OK, OK, OK. Bye-bye sir.
Switch is at cinemas from 30 March and on DVD and Blu-ray from 9 April