The Big Bang Theory star Simon Helberg has explained why he became a French citizen to land a part in his latest film.
The actor, best known for his role as Howard Wolowitz in the long-running sitcom, stars opposite Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard in the musical Annette, which was written by the band Sparks and directed by the French director Leos Carax, the filmmaker responsible for Holy Motors and The Lovers On The Bridge.
Carax had said he wanted to make sure there were enough Europeans in the film to satisfy quotas that would secure EU funding and Helberg, whose wife is a French citizen and whose children go to a French school, was so keen to be a part of it that he decided to pursue French citizenship.
Helberg joked he was “a traitor to my country”, but explained he thought the project, which received a standing ovation on the opening night of the Cannes film festival, was worth the effort.
He told the PA news agency: “I have officially changed nationalities, I became a citizen of France. No big deal, not trying to brag. And I grew a beard, in no particular order.
“But Leos is a genius, he’s a little wizard, and Sparks and Adam and Marion, it’s a group of people that I never imagined would come together that don’t often come together.
“And Leos makes a movie less often than the Olympics, like six or seven years, and I’m just a huge, huge fan of his and Sparks and everybody involved, so I figured this is this is just one of those moments where you have to commit international war crimes, if that’s what it takes.
“And at least it will make a great story at the end of the day if I don’t get the role, so I was pretty bullish about it.
“I never knew if it was going to pay off, but I loved everything about this thing. And I figured it’s worth it if I if I die trying.”
Helberg said the inclusion of Cotillard in the cast meant it was ultimately unnecessary for him to become a European for the film to qualify for funding, adding: “I think it was part of the performance art madness that he was trying to put everybody through it.
“There always was this question that I had, which was is he just like a wicked man who’s asking us to do all of these insane things because it’s part of the process or because that kind of chaos makes people more vulnerable or more creative?
“I don’t think it was so with the EU subsidy part of the film, but I i do think throughout there was a quality actually that he perpetuates, which is this tenuous sort of precariousness of ‘Will we fail? Is this even possible?’
“And then when you’re asked to really go for something that seems just absolutely untenable, something very creative comes out of that and I think maybe that that’s kind of where he idles.”
Helberg joked that his role is the “underbelly” of the pianist character he played in the film Florence Foster Jenkins, opposite Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, about the eccentric opera singer.
He said: “When I mentioned Florence Foster Jenkins to him, of course, he didn’t know the film, but he knew who Florence Foster Jenkins was, which kind of sums him up, because he’s just the coolest guy and that’s a cool move.
“There’s no similarity in any other way. But I kind of I like it, at least in my mind, serving as like the underbelly of, you know, Florence Foster Jenkins.
“It’s like Florence Foster Jenkins is to the show Taxi what Annette is to Taxi Driver, that’s basically how it works.”
Annette is released in UK cinemas on September 3.