From Intouchables to Jurassic World and Arsène Lupin and soon the next big action movie onPeacock by John Woo, Omar Sy is succeeding where most French comedians have failed before him: to keep on doing artsy films in France while landing major roles in Hollywood blockbusters.
Ask anyone who knows two languages and they’ll tell you they feel like they lose their personalities, their charm and their sense of humor when they don’t speak in their native language. Well, that couldn’t be more untrue when it comes to Omar Sy. Known in France for his warmth and contagious laugh whenever he appears on TV, he’s just the same in America when he’s joking around with Jimmy Fallon or having a chat with Jimmy Kimmel. The CBS host introduction of Omar Sy in 2021 is actually quite telling of the career of Omar Sy. “Our next guest was so successful in his native France, he won the equivalent of the oscar, he was voted favorite personality three times, he moved here to be loved by a whole new country”. And that’s exactly what he did with the incredible worldwide success of Arsène Lupin, with season 3 coming up soon. Watched by over 76 millions viewers on Netflix in its first four weeks of release, season 1 of Arsène Lupin was the second biggest debut ever for a Netflix show at the time. An impressive number when you think about the fact that Arsène Lupin, based on the Arsène Lupin books by Maurice Leblanc (more on that later) is not an English-speaking show. Not surprisingly, Netflix confirmed production of season 3 of Arsène Lupin will be released at the end of 2022 or in the first months of 2023. (read tweet). So how come a French actor is able to carry on his shoulder one of Netflix’s biggest shows ever?
French dreams of Hollywood
Every year, there are probably 20 new articles about some French actor or actress, famous in France, supposedly taking over Hollywood after landing one little role in an American movie. But how many French actors do really make it in Hollywood? How many are able to get more than just the role of the French guy or French girl of that movie and don’t get hired just on the fact that they’re French and speak relatively good English.
Few French actors have accomplished Hollywood fame by playing in English-speaking movies. There are the pioneers Charles Boyer and Louis Jourdan post WWII, and then Gérard Depardieu, Juliette Binoche, Jean Reno, Eva Green, Marion Cotillard and Julie Deply. And yet, ask movie lovers in America if they know any of them and they might only be able to name 2 or 3 from that list. There are of course many more French comedians who have had roles in Hollywood films like Audrey Tautou, Lambert Wilson, Jean Dujardin and Vincent Cassel. But despite appearing in blockbusters, they are usually mostly remembered for their famous role in a French film. Everyone remembers Audrey Tautou for Amelie more than for Da Vinci Code, or Jean Dujardin for The Artist more than for his couple of lines in The Wolf of Wall Street. Whether it is by choice or not, French actors usually enjoy two or three years of small roles in Hollywood following the success of one French movie. They then move back to France and put an end to their dream of Hollywood fame. Omar Sy is not one of them. And you know he made it in America when one of the most asked questions about him on Google is ‘Is Omar Sy known in France’!
Omar Sy and his family move to Los Angeles
Following the success of The Intouchables, Omar Sy decided to move to Los Angeles in 2012 with his wife Hélène Sy and their 5 kids. Not just for the movie opportunities but also to step away from the sudden incredible fame he reached in France after winning the César award for best actor. “I needed a gap year after Intouchables. It was all so big, I needed time to think, turn off TV and decide what I want to do in the movie industry”. After that one sabbatical year, Omar Sy and his family decided the city of angels was the right place for them. In Los Angeles, “fame was less heavy to bear for my kids” said the French actor in an interview for Vogue. “We had a cool little life there [in France], in a nice village, and then one day I went to pick up my son from school and someone said, ‘Ah, it’s Omar’s son’. That scared me. Being more anonymous in L.A. was reassuring”. Omar Sy is only missing a thing or two from France, French food and French soccer! “One of my sons was a great player when we first got to the U.S., because his uncles are all hardcore fans. He was six then, and now he’s 15, and he plays basketball!”
After taking some time off, Omar Sy started to learn English to feel more at ease on set in America and to land better roles. “I’m often called to be the French character. I’m okay with that, there’s no shame in that. I tried to erase my accent but no way, it’s impossible!’ said Omar Sy in 2021 to the French radio France Inter. His very first Hollywood role was a small appearance in X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014, before getting a more substantial role in Dangerous People with James Franco and Kate Hudson. Omar Sy’s Hollywood career took a turn for the best when it was announced he would star in Jurassic World. In the action film directed by Colin Trevorrow, he portrays Barry, a caretaker for the park’s velociraptors and a good friend of the main character, played by Chris Pratt. The movie went on to become the seventh highest grossing film of all time, with $1,6 billion dollars of revenues. Even if Omar Sy wasn’t the star of the movie, his scenes were spectacular and among the fans’ favorites. Quickly After, he shared the spotlight with Tom Hanks in the Dan Brown adaptation, Inferno and with Harrison Ford in The Call of the Wild. The two movies didn’t particularly do so well at the box-office but solidified a little bit more Omar Sy’s career in America. And then came Arsène Lupin…
Watch an exclusive interview of Omar Sy for Rendez-Vous D’amérique on TV5MONDE to learn more on how the French actor manages his career in France and in Hollywood.
Arsène Lupin, a game-changer in Omar Sy’s Hollywood ambition
Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Thief is a famous series of books in France and in the francophone world. Written by Maurice Leblanc, the stories of Arsène Lupin debuted in 1905 in a French magazine. Following the success of the character, Maurice Leblanc went on to write 18 novels, 39 short stories and 5 plays around the street-smart thief turned detective. Arsène Lupin, now in its season 3, on Netflix, was far from the first adaptation of the adventures of the gentleman thief. The first film was actually made in Hollywood and released in 1908, a year before the first of many French Arsène Lupin films. Dozens more adaptations were then made on TV (including a telenovela in the Philippines in 2007!) and in cinemas. Interestingly enough, the Netflix series Arsène Lupin with Omar Sy is not adapted from one of the novels or short-story by Maurice Leblanc. And Omar Sy is actually not Arsène Lupin but Assanne Diop, an admirer of the book’s character who is inspired by him to get revenge on the people that did him and his father wrong. The idea of not playing Arsène Lupin himself was actually from Omar Sy, who was involved early on in the making of the TV series. “It was a dream to be in this show”, said the French actor on RTL. “Filming in the Louvre dressed in a nice suit was pretty cool too”, even though most of season 1 of Arsène Lupin had to be filmed during the Covid outbreak.
When the Netflix show came out, the Arsène Lupin books had been largely forgotten outside the francophone world. Arsène Lupin definitely brought them back to the spotlight. The show was an instant success and is still to this day the most viewed non-English show on the streaming platform. Season 3 release date of Arsène Lupin hasn’t been announced yet, but the next adventures of Assane Diop are expected for late 2022-early 2023. The show has had an instant impact on the sales of the numerous books of Arsène Lupin. In the two weeks following the release of the Netflix series, the number of books sold was the equivalent of a normal full year of sales of the Maurice LeBlanc character. Omar Sy being so popular in the young generations, a lot of teenagers started reading all the Arsène Lupin books in order.
How to watch Omar Sy’s French films
Jurassic World and Arsène Lupin are only a snippet of Omar’s Sy impressive career for an actor who only just turned 44. Despite living in Los Angeles, Omar Sy never ceased to make French movies. He’s been appearing in many highly-regarded dramas in the past few years. An interesting career path after making a name for himself in comedies (Nos jours heureux, The Intouchables) thanks to his charisma and good-heartedness. Among those dramas was the powerful film Police by Anne Fontaine, where he plays a conflicted cop supposed to drive an illegal immigrant to the airport to be deported. Another outstanding film was Chocolat by Roschdy Zem based on the true story of the first black entertainer in France. He also held the main role in the war movie Tirailleurs, in competition in Cannes in 2022. The film is about a father who decided to volunteer in the army during WWII to fight next to his 17 year-old son. And these are just some of the great films he’s done
You might wonder how and where to stream Omar’s Sy French movies in America. There’s no doubt that TV5MONDE is your best option to keep up with the best of what French cinema has to offer. Recent releases, classics, TV series, documentaries, cartoons, TV5MONDE has a wide range of programs and many platforms to enjoy French movies with English subtitles. First, there’s TV5MONDE, the network with dozens of films every month around 9 PM. Then you get access to TV5MONDE Cinema on Demand, the on-demand platform which showcases 15 new films every month around a theme, a director or a comedian. And finally, you can now stream on the go with the newly launched TV5MONDEplus, the French streaming platform with a (very) large catalog of French movies and series. So to enjoy all the great French movies Omar Sy has made and will make, get your TV5MONDE subscription now.
What are Omar Sy's next films?
Omar Sy is not done with Hollywood and Hollywood is not done with him. Omar Sy has two ambitious projects lined-up. First, an action-thriller from Joe Carnahan with Scandal’s actress Kerry Washington about a couple on the run trying to escape a unit of shadow ops that has been sent to kill them. Next, Omar Sy will be in front of the camera of Hong-Kong director John Woo, the man behind some of the biggest action films of the 90’s like Broken Arrow, Face/Off and Mission Impossible II. The movie, titled The Killer, will be released on the new streaming platform Peacock and will be a remake of John Woo’s own film from 1989. The film is set to hit the Peacock early 2023.
Omar Sy, more than just an actor
The French actor, originally from Trappes, a suburb of Paris, has always been very vocal about his political views. In 2017, he came out against the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. He then co-signed a column with other personalities asking for the newly elected president to “stop the violence against migrants” in France. He then became a frequent target of far-right pundits and politicians, often attacking him for giving his point of view on France despite now being an expatriate. While in the US, he never stopped being politically active. He joined a demonstration in Los Angeles following the death of Geroge Floyd in the hands of the police in Minneapolis in May 2020. Already in 2016 in France, he was among the celebrities who spoke out in support of Adama Traoré’s family, following the death in custody of the young man. Omar Sy’s support and denunciation of police brutality created a controversy. He later on had to speak up explaining that he’s as saddened by the death of Adama Traoré as he would be by the death of a policeman.
In an exclusive interview with Didier Allouch for TV5MONDE, Omar Sy talked about why being socially and politically active is important to him and why being a famous actor shouldn’t change that. “Of course, I’m touched by injustice, humiliation. It rings a bell. I’m upset by it because I know what it is.” said Omar Sy. “As an actor, I always ask myself what’s my role in this. Especially when I start on a new project, I ask myself: is it useful, interesting to talk about this topic today, is it important to say these things? Is it right?”. For him, being politically involved has nothing to do with his celebrity status and about being an example for the French youth: “Everyone has a role to play, not just artists, to make this world a better place. We all have our responsibility”.