the artist and director of the new gainsbourg movie fills us in!

by liza darwin

There have been tons of movies made on the life of Serge Gainsbourg, but don't lump the latest in the pile of "been there, done that" biopics just yet. Instead, the French graphic novelist Joann Sfar (in his directorial debut), gives the fascinating life of Gainsbourg a whimsical fairytale spin, with surrealist-style illustrations, a captivating '60s soundtrack, and the scandalous romance that we've all come to know from the iconic singer. We chatted with Sfar about the project.

What originally drew you to the film? I've made comic books for 20 years, and when people wanted me to make a movie I wanted to do it on Serge. I didn't want to do a biopic, I wanted to do a musical, which they said would be even worse! They were worried about the Gainsbourg family being mad and saying no, but I showed the family my ideas and they said yes.

So they liked the idea! They loved the idea of it being a fairytale and it being a tribute more than an trial about Gainsbourg. I wanted to make music and tell nice things about this life, rather than focus on the negative.  

How did you decide to incorporate the graphic, surrealist characteristics that you're known for into the movie?

I'd been writing the movie through quotes that were compiled from Gainsbourg's interviews. I wrote the script from all the things he said, even when he was drunk or telling crap, or wasn't true. I used this, combined with my natural language through watercolor and drawings. We didn't want the burden of historic reconstitution.

What do you hope people take from the film? The movie addresses a question of what remains of the French heroes. I liked the fact that Gainsbourg is so not Don Draper- he's a Russian Jew who's pretending to be that type of guy with all these women.

What's up next for you? I'm writing now an animated movie on Little Vampire, which is a book of mine. The way I come up with ideas, I don't sleep. I stay awake and I make drawings and when I find them funny, I write them down. I write for myself and my kids and my friends; I want to please everyone.

Watch Gainsbourg: a Heroic Life when it's released August 31.