Out of the spotlight | Mario Saint

The moment of a conversation about their career, the passage of time and the world around them, The Press takes news of personalities beloved by Quebecers, who now live farther from the spotlight.


“With Mario, there are no small joys, no small sorrows, everything is high all the time,” says Danielle Fichaud about the actor whose mentor she became 35 years ago. An intensity under the sign of which Mario Saint-Amand still lives, even if he has moved away from the camera, to reconnect with the school benches.

At 13 or 14, Mario Saint-Amand watched raging bull, Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece for which Robert De Niro had earned sixty pounds, in order to play Jake LaMotta. “Seeing this film, I immediately knew that was what I wanted to do: apply myself to transforming my body to interpret the truth of a character as nobly as possible”, said the actor recently during a long interview granted by videoconference, in the comfort of his residence in Moisie, on the Côte-Nord, his native region.

His filmography is not as imposing as that of other performers of his generation, but the density of outstanding roles is exceptional, whether it is Jean-Pierre, the AIDS sufferer from Love with a capital A (for which he lost 20 pounds), Alain, the schizophrenic (still Love with a capital A) for which he spent two months at the Louis-Hippolyte-Lafontaine hospital, of Simon Laurin, the endearing but unstable brother of Watatatow, Where by Gerry Boulet.

Marking, in every sense of the word: the character of the rocker took hold of him so much that he ended up in front of the doctor, a year after hanging up his wig, because his body was “completely sore” , ailments that he managed to cure through meditation.


IMAGE PROVIDED BY TÉLÉ-QUÉBEC

Mario Saint-Amand in his role as an AIDS patient, in 1994

Mario Saint-Amand has seen others, therefore. But in 2017, when he learned of the death of his character in District 31 reading the script, something in him cracks.

The feeling of rejection that I was pitching in the face, it was as if I was no longer good for anything. It killed part of the belonging I had in my job. But quickly, what I asked myself was: how can I be useful?

Mario Saint-Amand, about the death of his character in District 31

Annoyed, he pushes himself to the Magdalen Islands, his favorite place, to reconnect with what is called the essential. “And when I got up the first morning, the word ‘university’ came to mind. »

This voice

The university, this is the main reason why Mario Saint-Amand, 54, is now absent from our screens. But how to register? He first aspired to law, in order to specialize in Aboriginal law and help his Innu friends – he was once Florent Vollant’s roommate – to defend their territory.

Faced with the evidence of his lack of prerequisites, he will instead turn to the certificate in Aboriginal studies at Laval University, before landing a job as an assistant researcher at the Center for Addiction Rehabilitation of Quebec, which will lead him to the certificate in dependencies. An area of ​​which he already had practical knowledge, he was told jokingly. Mario, who has never hid his past in this matter, laughs.

“Working with these researchers allowed me to see how addiction is a destructive phenomenon within Aboriginal families,” he says. Helping people recover has become a way for me to help them have the means to defend their rights, defend their territory. And that’s why I decided to come back here, to the North Shore, to Innu territory. »

Sparkling eyes, generous answers, frank smile: Mario Saint-Amand is obviously very happy with his second life. However, the actor still finds it difficult to explain why his role in Gerry (2011) did not revive her career.

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PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, ARCHIVES LA PRESSE

Mario Saint-Amand in 2010 on the set of Gerry

Could it be that its intensity scares some? Other actors have said that on the set of Alain DesRochers’ film, Saint-Amand did not leave his character for a second. Truth or exaggeration?

I can’t say that’s wrong, but neither do I remember wanting to be Gerry all the time. This character lived in me beyond what I wanted. People say I always wanted to be Gerry; I say that it was Gerry who wanted to be there all the time.

Mario Saint Amand

In 1988, after being expelled from the Saint-Hyacinthe Theater School on the pretext that his hoarse voice would not allow him to project sufficiently on stage, a young Mario Saint-Amand, in his early twenties, turned to the workshops of Danielle Fichaud.

In a universe where the pace of filming always seems to be accelerating, the immoderate approach of her former student may have put some people off, she suspects. “But Mario is a unique actor, who knows how to work his voice like a Stradivarius. When he started, singularity was not put forward in the profession, in Quebec. He was considered a weird actor, whereas today, that’s what we’re looking for, the singularity. That’s why I think there’s a new generation of directors who will rediscover it. »

To feel useful

Whether he is offered major roles again, which he hopes, without making it a disease, or whether his phone remains silent, Mario Saint-Amand is above all at heart these days to feel useful, repeats t -he, which his job as an actor allowed him, but up to a certain point, and in a more diffuse way. During our interview, he spoke with the pride of a father about the end-of-year show that the students aged 10 to 17 from the Attitude Rock camp, where he gives singing lessons, were about to present. He is also working to open his own counseling office for dependent people.

There is in this eternal quest for approvals and rejections that a career in the spotlight supposes something addictive, but also, in the long run, nagging, we understand. “That’s what brings me back here, to my region: I wanted to give back what I received to young people, to my native friends, to dependent people, in a one-to-one relationship, eye to eye. I wanted to be someone for someone. »

Out of the spotlight | Mario Saint-Amand wants to be someone for someone