When Samba opens stateside on July 24, its star, French actor Omar Sy, will be represented at the U.S. box office by two very different films. One: a comedy/drama about the plight of illegal immigrants in France. Two: Jurassic World, about dinosaurs who eat people.
The dichotomy of Sy’s career is interesting; your average American moviegoer would probably know him best, if at all, from small roles in Hollywood blockbusters X-Men: Days of Future Past and the aforementioned Jurassic World. In France, however, he’s a bona-fide star. That’s in large part because of his breakout performance in 2011’s TheIntouchables, in which he played a freewheeling immigrant hired by a quadriplegic aristocrat (François Cluzet) to be his caregiver. An unexpected crossover hit, it was picked up by The Weinstein Company for distribution in America, where it eventually earned $10.1 million. Not too bad for a foreign-language film starring two actors more or less completely unknown to U.S. audiences.
The Intouchables was directed by the duo of Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, who reunite with their Intouchables star for Samba, actually their fourth feature collaboration with the actor. “We wanted to show another aspect of Omar’s talent,” explains Toledano, adding that he, Nakache and Sy collaborated from the start to develop a film with “a sensitive topic, to keep going on this amazing adventure together.”