How the star of “Lupin” pulled off his greatest confidence trick.
Omar Sy was sure he saw Jesus. He had just dropped his children off at school and was driving home on Sunset Boulevard when he spotted a man with flowing hair and a long beard, dressed in a white toga. “He was walking barefoot in the street, and I’m staring at him, slowing down to get a better look. I’m asking myself, ‘Am I hallucinating, or what?’ ” Sy recalled. No one else seemed to notice. “And right next to him there’s a girl marching along with her Starbucks, and then, on the other side, a guy doing his jogging, and some other dudes washing their car. I was the only one looking.”
Sy, who was born and raised in France, had only recently arrived in Los Angeles, and, gawking at what seemed normal to everyone else, he felt conspicuously foreign. “That was what blew me away about Los Angeles,” he said. “But then I discovered that’s what pleases me so much—you dress how you like, you walk how you like, and nobody looks.”
Sy has lived in L.A. for nearly a decade now; he does yoga and hikes the canyons and switches from French to English to say things like “perfect fit” and “make a statement.” He’s played a time-travelling superhero (“X-Men: Days of Future Past”) and a robot who metamorphoses into a sports car (“Transformers: The Last Night”), and worked alongside Bradley Cooper (“Burnt”), Tom Hanks (“Inferno”), and a quartet of shrieking velociraptors (the “Jurassic World” franchise).
His “Jurassic” co-star Chris Pratt told me that Sy’s magnetism made him ideal for the role: “It was so important to cast someone with enough physicality to hold his own opposite me . . . as well as a sense of goodness to sell the idea of a real love, and a kind of warmth opposite these essentially C.G.I. creatures.” (What’s more Hollywood than a quote from Chris Pratt?)
In January, Netflix released the first five episodes of “Lupin,” a French-language series starring Sy as Assane Diop, a high-minded lowlife whose crimes might be understood as acts of reclamation. A second installment of five episodes is available now. “Lupin” draws from Maurice Leblanc’s series of detective stories about the gentleman thief Arsène Lupin. Leblanc created Lupin in 1905, serializing his adventures in the popular science magazine Je Sais Tout.
Leblanc had ambitions of becoming a serious novelist, but Lupin proved so lucrative that he devoted the better part of his career to the character, writing dozens of novels and novellas, which were adapted into comic books, plays, films, and television shows. (The most famous of these was a nineteen-seventies series starring Georges Descrières.) By the time Sy came along, the franchise was slightly shopworn.
When you think of Lupin, at least in France, it’s a bit dusty. I didn’t want to come in and play Lupin like the rest of them.
Despite its antique source material, the show has become an enormous international hit, topping Netflix’s charts in such diverse markets as Germany, Brazil, and the Philippines. In its first month, it drew viewers from seventy-six million households, more than “The Queen’s Gambit” or “Bridgerton.” “Lupin,” according to one of Netflix’s internal metrics, is the company’s second-biggest original début of all time.
As the artistic producer, the headliner, and the unmistakable raison d’être of the only French-language show ever to immediately hit Netflix’s American Top Ten, Sy has become something of a roadside Jesus in his own right. “He has this weird cocktail of characteristics where absolutely everyone—men, women, children—finds him completely charming,” George Kay, one of the show’s creators, said.
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