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Thierry Ardisson: “My real job is to be an inventor”

Posted Apr 29, 2022, 6:01 AM

Inventing is what this enfant terrible of the small screen likes most about his job. Evidenced by its new program “Hôtel du temps”, rich in a stunning technical process. The objective: to bring back some missing stars, such as Gabin, Dalida or Coluche, thanks to artificial intelligence, within the framework of the Meurice palace, to make them tell their life story.

Are your pleasures today the same as in your youth?

There is one that I have given up, apart from a few firecrackers from time to time, and that is drugs. On the other hand, I continue to find the same pleasure that I took during my first steps in working life, at the age of 16, as a record store at the Whiskey-à-Gogo in Juan-les-Pins. I have on my Apple TV 600 clips that I have chosen for the quality of the songs and that of the image, which accompany me constantly. I listen to mambo as well as rap, rock, few French songs except Gainsbourg. The second constant is travel. I’m part of the generation that discovered traveling around the world. I made it my mission to see the planet, all the places that made me dream. I never stopped traveling.

You have a provocative image: do you still enjoy shocking?

It’s horrible, but yes. When it was on television it was of no consequence, now it’s those around me who have to put up with it. I like in the middle of a dinner to say something that will shock everyone. Jean-Luc Lagardère told me: “Thierry you are like all provocateurs, you want people to love you”. I don’t think he was completely wrong.

You are launching a new program, “Hôtel du temps”, on May 2 on France 3, how did you come up with the idea?

When television occupied all my time, I discovered that there was another way to travel, remaining still: History. I wrote a historical book, which was called “Louis XX” on the end of the Bourbons of the eldest branch, another “The Ghosts of the Tuileries”. This time, with “Hôtel du Temps”, I combine my curiosity as an interviewer and that of an apprentice historian. I spend a month researching and documenting the missing legend that I am going to interview, Gabin, Dalida or Coluche for example. I do a real job as a biographer. I really enjoy finding unnoticed and revealing information about the interviewee. When I worked on Gabin, I found the text signed by the actor, who we know was irreproachable in his fight against Nazi Germany, which he had been obliged to sign in order to go into exile in Los Angeles during the Occupation, before returning to enlist with General Leclerc. He promised to testify to the United States of the merits of Vichy. Which he obviously didn’t. Thanks to the Internet, this pleasure of research is increased tenfold.

You like to innovate in your shows, what is the innovative concept?

My real job is an inventor! I was trained in advertising to come up with ideas. I had had the idea behind “Hôtel du Temps” for a long time. I had made it with look-alikes: I had interviewed Baudelaire in “Everyone talks about it”, Victor Hugo in prime time on France 2, and then John Lennon in “Gone with time”. Artificial Intelligence allowed me this time to reproduce the missing characters almost perfectly. The process, the “deep fake”, was known. What I invented was its cultural use. I found the company that could do it in Paris, and they came up with an exceptional result.

Thierry Ardisson, on April 8, 2022, at the “Le Dalí” restaurant at the “Meurice” hotel.©Marie Rouge for Les Echos Weekend

Why bring your famous dead back to a palace like the “Meurice”? The taste of luxury?

I was not going to receive them in a cemetery! I got this idea from the hotel, and since I live next door, I chose Le Meurice. I’m a big believer in the pleasure principle. I made sure to always have fun when choosing the setting for my shows. I shot almost all of them on location rather than in the studio. It started with the Bains Douches.

Which of your shows has given you the most satisfaction?

I loved doing “Paris Last”. We started at 9 p.m. with Jean d’Ormesson at the Bristol and ended at night with the prostitutes of Pigalle or Les Chandelles. I testified, I did not judge. And it was an opportunity to discuss “at human level” with people, known or anonymous, which for me is one of the great pleasures of life.

Cinema, theatre, television, do you have a preference?

Youtube ! The only TV channel where you can watch a documentary on Stefan Zweig and Beyonce’s new music video. When I have nothing in the evening, I watch YouTube: it’s a bit like Les Puces, you never know what you’ll find there.

Right now, what would give you the most pleasure?

Going to lunch with my wife. I met Audrey twelve years ago, love at first sight, we love each other. Meeting her for lunch always makes me very happy.

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