from cinema to theatre, the unexpected comeback of Smaïn

The comic star of the 1980s and 1990s returns to the cinema this Wednesday with “The Imaginary Doctor” after years of absence, while preparing for the fortieth anniversary of his stage debut.

Smain is back. Apart from a few appearances in shows (Mask Singer) and series (Sat), the comic star of the 1980s and 1990s had disappeared from the radar.

He returns this year with two comedies, Placed (released on January 12) and The imaginary doctor (in theaters this Wednesday, April 27), while preparing for the fortieth anniversary of his stage debut with an intimate show, DNA. “I feel like I’ve gone abroad,” laughs the 64-year-old comedian, who however refutes any comeback. “I’ve always been there.” And to specify:

“It’s a media absence. It’s part of the game. To get to know this job well, there is a moment when you pick up. You pick up because you’re a dad, because there’s the new generation coming, because we are pushed around. And that, you have to take it well. You must not fall into bitterness. You also have to know how to reinvent yourself.”

“A miraculous role”

Smaïn reinvented himself by diving into writing. He wrote plays. He has signed several tales for a philharmonic orchestra and collaborated with Michel Legrand on his album offense of F sharp. And cinema in all this? “Cinema is like the Spanish inn!” he exclaims. “We come in, we go out. We call you, we don’t call you anymore.”

Smaïn tried to reinvent himself for the first time, in 2006, by taking on the main role of the drama TV movie Harkis, with Leïla Bekhti. “It was a different role. I was persuaded to meet new roles, and no. What I did went unnoticed”, regrets Smaïn. “The film was a real hit when it aired, but they didn’t come looking for me.”

During these years away from the spotlight, the most important thing was to “keep the desire” and “your child’s soul”, he insists. “Yes, there have been pains, but they only concern us”. And there it goes again. In The imaginary doctorthe first film directed by Ahmed Hamidi, the screenwriter of Big Bath, he embodies in duet with Booder a completely crazy police inspector. “It was totally unexpected,” rejoices the comedian. “This role is miraculous. The phone rang less and less…”

“In a career, we change”

For the first time, Smaïn appears grimaced on the screen, his face masked by a particularly thankless pair of glasses. A real comedy prop for that die-hard Jerry Lewis fan. “It was the first time I put on a big utensil like this and it works! It makes me want to continue.” For his next film, Smaïn asked his director if he could grow a beard.

“In a career, we change, we metamorphose”, insists Smaïn. “You have to reinvent yourself. It’s very hard. It’s very complicated. I’m no longer the hopping comedian of the 80s. I don’t want to be that comedian anymore. I want to become who I am today . Speak more intimately of my journey, of the orphan of Constantine that I am.”

A journey that he evokes on stage in his new show DNA (“Algerian By Birth”). “I was saved by the Sisters of Saint-Vincent de Paul, repatriated to France by a Jewish woman and adopted by a Muslim couple. Three books, a single binding. I owe these three religions”, he summarizes in this one-man show that he has been running since 2020.

“I want to tell how I became what I am thanks to an act of resilience”, indicates the comedian. “It’s a tribute to this France that I love. I’m talking about my building, about all these magnificent people who welcomed us. My mother was Moroccan, my father of Kabyle origin. They say that France is racist. There are racists, but not all French people.” So far, the result is satisfactory. “It’s going well. The show is funny and moving. I free myself from my fears.”