The comedy with Gérard Lanvin, Stomy Bugsy and Isabelle Nanty, who fed a generation of footballers, is 20 years old, and will soon have a sequel. Its director tells behind the scenes.
Twenty years ago, Fabien Onteniente made the most striking football film in French cinema since Headbutt. Released on April 24, 2002, 3 Zeroswith Gérard Lanvin, Stomy Bugsy, Samuel Le Bihan, Isabelle Nanty, Gérard Darmon and Lorant Deutsch, marked a generation by revealing the underside and shenanigans of PSG.
3 Zeros tells the story of Tibor Kovacs (Deutsch), a football prodigy who dreams of playing for the France team. Spotted by Manu (Le Bihan), his cellmate, who will become his agent, he joined PSG thanks to old veteran Alain Colonna (Lanvin). They will discover a merciless world, populated by colorful characters.
The film, which brings together in front of the camera half a dozen personalities from the world of football, such as Rolland Courbis, Luis Fernandez, Jean-Pierre Papin or even Ronaldinho, Thierry Roland and Lilian Thuram, testifies to a moment of changeover in the history of this popular sport.
“With 3 Zeros, I’m starting to make movies!”
For Onteniente and Lanvin, 3 Zeros especially tastes like first times. The director, who began his career in the 1980s, considers it his “real” first film. “Jet set wasn’t very well done. He did not have a pronounced cinematic identity. With 3 ZerosI’m starting to make movies!”
The shooting marks for Gérard Lanvin the beginning of a fruitful collaboration with Fabien Onteniente (Camping, The Children of the Righteous) and screenwriter Philippe Guillard (grandpa sitter, I love what you do). “We were in a happy emotion. We were talking about something we love, sport, but also about all the shenanigans around it.”
“We had a partnership with PSG”
3 zeros was born in the euphoria of the victory of the Blues in 1998. The idea was suggested to Onteniente by François Samuelson, Michel Houellebecq’s agent: “It’s the only film where I could cherish my childhood dreams while doing”, rejoices the director, who is still surprised to have succeeded in producing a film so critical of football:
“We had a partnership with PSG. They were a bit skeptical because we were mistreating the institution, but they were still smarter than that and they allowed us to make the film. Making the film meant say access to players, access to the Parc des Princes, access to everything, being able to show the shirt on the screen.”
The PSG ticks when discovering this comedy against a background of shenanigans, but tolerates the spades: “They had not read the script too much”, laughs Onteniente. And the director to clarify: “The president of the club, who was played by Wladimir Yordanoff, who has since died, and who knew nothing about it, it’s not bad: it’s realistic.”
“PSG is not Paris”
Fabien Onteniente, who wrote 3 Zeros with the help of singer Emmanuel Booz and ex-rugby player Philippe Guillard, had no plan B if PSG refused to appear in the film: “It was impossible for us to talk about the OM. You can’t make a film about OM without talking about Marseille, while PSG is not Paris.”
Set in the high spheres of football, the film does not forget the popular dimension of this sport. “This is [le scénariste et chanteur] Emmanuel Booz who brought that and the way we talked about football in cafes. It belonged to the PSG of [Daniel] Hechter and [Francis] Borelli [qui furent les PDG du club dans les années 1970 et 1980].”
A popular dimension that we find in the most striking scenes of the film, those located in the women’s football club led with an iron fist by Isabelle Nanty. “We wanted to laugh about it. Now we can’t laugh like that anymore…”, sighs Fabien Onteniente.
Isabelle Nanty is hilarious in her role as pick-up trainer, greets the director: “When I told her to do an Aimé Jacquet in the locker room, it immediately set the tone. We loved this trainer character who motivates her daughters to surpass themselves when she herself is quite useless.”
With the help of Philippe Guillard, a former rugby player, Fabien Onteniente approaches another dimension of football: the entry of sport into the era of the “peoplization” of players, now paid fortunes. Players who left the pages of France Soccer to invade the columns of Gala.
Tribute to Alain Delon
Without Gerard Lanvin, 3 Zeros would surely have been less cult. The actor, who lends his muscles to Colonna, an agent on the return who will oppose the shenanigans of PSG, embodies a role in which he excels, that of the tough with a big heart, as in the films of the years 1970 and 1980.
“His character is also called Colonna, because the heroes played by Alain Delon in José Giovanni’s films always had Italian-sounding names”, specifies Onteniente. “It was serious and baltringue. In 3 ZerosLanvin has the looks and the name of a seventies film hero.”
As in many of his films, Gérard Lanvin injected into the screenplay colorful repartee inspired by formulas gleaned from bars, and which he compiled in notebooks. “If we judged things by appearances, no one would ever have wanted to eat a sea urchin”, is one of these additions.
“I do it when necessary,” says the actor. “I have notebooks full of formulas I heard when I was writing counter briefs for Coluche. I listened a lot, a lot, a lot to people talking in the street. As I have an ear, I wrote them down and sometimes, I use it for movies.”
“Benzema knows ‘3 Zeros’ by heart”
Released on April 24, 2002, 3 Zeros was a modest success, with 1.2 million admissions. “It must be said that we came out badly,” recalls Onteniente. “We were in fashion until Sunday evening then Le Pen found himself in the second round. From Monday morning, the young people were in the streets. On Wednesday, we no longer talked about football, no more cinema.”
The DVD release, on the other hand, is a real hit, followed by multiple TV reruns. 3 Zeros has become cult. “When I go to the Park, people still talk to me about it!” exclaims Fabien Onteniente. “They talk to me more about 3 Zeros that of Camping. It had fascinated them at PSG, because with 80 extras, I had filled the Park!”
“It was a bit innovative,” rejoices Fabien Onteniente, whose film features a sex tape blackmail, twelve years before the Valbuena affair. “I made the first sex tape! I wonder if I gave them the idea!”
“Everyone found themselves in 3 Zeros“, continues the director. “Benzema, for example, knows him by heart.” The center forward at Real Madrid will be in the cast of the sequel, 4 Zeros. The writing has started. “The film is requested by the football authorities”, notes Gérard Lanvin, who is “starting” to re-enter.
“It’s my alter-ego”, specifies Fabien Onteniente. “We get along well. He reassures me, he has good vibes and we’ve only had successes together. We said we weren’t going to let go anymore!”
“Neymar is a bit of a Kardashian”
4 Zeros will be above all a pretext to approach football in the age of social networks. “Now everyone knows where the players are. So much so that they get robbed! Neymar is a bit of a Kardashian. He posts everything. Sometimes he’s more of a Kardashian than a football player” , believes Fabien Onteniente.
The director also wants to show the entourage of these star players: “Now there are quite a few agents prowling around. Scum agents. Everything has changed.” He had approached the question a little through the character of the schemer agent embodied by Serge Riaboukine in the first part.
But the director will go further in this new opus, he promises: “It’s worse now. It’s really scum. It’s North ferry. Ousmane Dembélé, there is a guy who has his credit card permanently. They are ten [dans son entourage]. That’s what I want to show.”
“Lanvin is coming back a bit like Chef Etchebest”
But to approach this subject, “you have to show the love of popular football, you have to show the living part, otherwise it doesn’t make sense. I’m going to start from the character of Isabelle Nanty who married another guy, who is an agent. It’s a bit Kitchen nightmare. Lanvin comes back a bit like Chief Etchebest to sort things out.”
Mathilde Seigner will also be in the cast, as will the former captain of PSG Raï, who will play the President of the capital club. Onteniente also hopes to convince Stomy Bugsy to make an appearance as Mickael Silvain, the bewildered player he played in the first film, who in this sequel has become a chronicler of theAfter Foot.
Onteniente does not yet have a shooting date for 4 Zeros. He is in talks with M6. “We will see what M6 offers us, if they want to do it for the room or for a platform. I have no religion.” It will be, whatever happens, a feature film: “I think 4 Zeros can cut the grass a lot of series.”