Ricardo Lefèvre has been in many movies, but the actor rarely gives any interviews. Perhaps he’d rather have his work speak for him. His work, as in roles in a string of Haitian movies including Piwouli et le Zenglendo (Piwouli and The Thug), La Victime (The Victim), Le President a-t-il Le Sida? [Does the President Have AIDS?], Les Amours D’un Zombi (The Loves of a Zombie), and L’incroyable Escroquerie(The Incredible Rip-Off).
There were probably bad guys in Haitian movies before Lefèvre entered the cinema, but somehow he’s made his career out of playing them, and playing them better than any actor before him. What’s remarkable is that no matter how hardened the criminal he plays, no matter how callous or ruthless the character, somehow he manages to to breathe some sort of likeability to the roles. And if not, he at least gets the respect of grudging admirers and critics with his portrayals.
In the role of Althanaze for example, Lefèvre plays an overly ambitious father who’s quick to use his daughter as a pawn to a fast life of riches, that ends up in tragedy for his entire family. Yet, it is Althanaze’s desire (however misguided) to provide for his family that drives him to his reprehensible actions. Lefèvre approached the role of a former army member Piwouli with comedic ease. Piwouli may be no more than a delusional, egotistical, jealousy-driven cad, but he’s got heart. With all the bad guy roles, some people may have even forgotten that the first Haitian film that he had a role in—Millionaire Par Erreur—actually had him playing a good guy!
If there’s a role Lefèvre hadn’t played, it was a romantic lead, but Les Amours D’un Zombi, a film of director Arnold Antonin, has given him the opportunity.
He discussed his films, acting, and his future projects with Kreyolicious.com.
Who really is Ricardo Lefèvre?
Ricardo is a Haitian, an actor, an artist. But he’s also a simple man. Very understanding, and someone who respects everyone.
You played the role of Althanaze and Larrieux respectively in the films La Victime and Le President a-t-il Le Sida. Did you have any misgivings about people confusing you with those characters?
I like those kind of roles a whole lot, because they make me go beyond myself. I’m not the type of actor who likes the easy way out. If I play a role like that, and no one hates me, then I’ve fallen short. So, it all means that I’m not afraid of people comparing me to the people I play.
What prompted you to get into the movie business?
I started off with theater and music, so it’s only natural that the movies should pull me to it.
You’ve worked with Arnold Antonin more than you’ve worked with any other filmmaker? Can you discuss working with him and the work you’ve collaborated on together?
It’s true, I’ve done 3 films with Arnold Antonin, and with all these three films, I was his Assistant Director. Arnold is a cool cat, understanding; he knows filmmaking. He’s a man of his word and a hard worker. He’s indefatigable. I really enjoy working with him.
What do you think of the current state of Haitian movies?
I think it’s too bad, for as much as there are great Haitian actors out there, great directors, great screenwriters for the cinema to be lagging the way it is. But it’s the fault of a lot of mercenaries, who believe too much in improvisation: cameramen, screenwriters, directors, distributors, producers and so on, who know nothing about the movies, that’s digging a deeper hole for it each and every day.
When you’re offered a script, how do you determine whether it’s a winner or not?
I take my time to read a script. If I find it interesting, it’s already a winner. In which case, I even propose my help to make a few corrections. Sometimes, it’s a little detail that lacks that make a script a winner or not.
When you’re about to play a role, what techniques do you use to bring the character to life?
I try to get a handle on the message the screenwriter is trying to convey, and I put together the character: who he is, how old is he, where he’s living, what makes him the person he’s become today. I use what is called the character’s psychological makeup.
Any actors and actresses, and directors you haven’t worked with that you would like to get on board with on a project?
There’s some actresses in Canada and two or three directors; there are some young actors and actresses in Haiti too. I don’t want to specify any names, so that I don’t miss anyone.
Many moviegoers list you along with Reginald Lubin and Smoye Noisy as the best actors Haiti has to offer. What are your thoughts on this?
Frankly, I’m just happy to be doing what I have to do. I leave the rest to the audience. But I Know these two guys as two stupendous actors, and there are many others like them. Manfred Marcelin, for one, not to mention a bunch of others.
L’incroyable Escroquerie is one of your latest films. How did you become involved with it? Can you tell us about the movie itself? What do you think of the end-product?
L’incroyable Escroquerie is the third screen by Sylvio Tessier, where once again, I play the role of the bad guy. It’s a very good film. It’s one of those scripts that allow me to give a great performance as an actor.
Besides L’incroyable Escroquerie, what other projects can we expect to see you in?
The last movie I starred in is Sarah, a film by Benedict Lamartine, in which I play a priest who’s a counselor who expels demons. The other project is a big project: it’s Michael Smith. I wrote the screenplay for that one, and Samuel Vincent is directing. It could be released in December, God willing.
What counsel would you give to someone who wants to be in the movie business? Or who would like to be an actor?
If that person’s ultimate goal is to make money, then it’s best that they don’t go into it. Because there’s no money in it, and those who are already in the industry, are struggling.
Since you’ve been in the movies, do you ever have any not-so-good experiences?
That happens on all movie sets. There’s a disagreement, but in the end, everything falls into place.
Will you write a movie of your own one day? Or perhaps direct one?
I’ve written already. I have a bunch on my computer. As for directing, I’ve already done that for other people. But very soon, I will be doing my own project.
What do you think can be done to bring Haitian cinema to another level?
Everybody has to stick to their place, which means that if you know how to work the camera, stick to that; if you can write, write; if you can give money, invest. If that happens, the products will be better, and this way the cinema will go further.
Image Credit: Belfim and Levanjil TV