“I have invested my life in “Hôtel du temps””

INTERVIEW – The 73-year-old presenter is back on France 3 with a new program that makes the missing stars talk.

It has hardly changed. Thierry Ardisson, still dressed in his traditional black, is making his comeback to television after a three-year eclipse. The host launches “Hôtel du temps”, a completely new concept that should not leave anyone indifferent. As usual.

TV MAGAZINE. – It’s been three years since you were fired from C8. What’s your mood for this return to TV?
Thierry ARDISON. †
I tell myself it was a blessing in disguise, otherwise I would have continued on talk shows. It was not pleasant at the time to be fired with a snap of the finger after thirteen years of good and loyal service on Canal+. But it forced me to question myself, to try something different. I love that life gives me the opportunity to create “Hôtel du temps”. It is neither film, nor TV, nor documentary, nor fiction, it is a unique cultural object!

Are you happy to be on France Télévisions again?
I spent eighteen years on France Télévisions! There I did my best shows: “Black Glasses for Sleepless Nights”, “Double Game”, “Everybody’s Talking About It”. It’s a bit like my house… When I went to see Delphine Ernotte (President of France Télévisions, editor’s note), I told her that after interviewing everyone, I had left the other world, and that I wanted legends interview disappeared, she answered me “yes”. (laughs). It’s wonderful!

ALSO READ – “You didn’t put Dalida in the foam did you?”: on the set of “Hôtel du temps” presented by Thierry Ardisson

Worked on “Hôtel du temps” for three years. Did you think that was long?
That was a long time ago! This may be the first time in my life that I spend so much time preparing for a show. For three years just that, day and night, obsessed with it. I’ve put my whole life into it! At first it was a crazy dream to interview deceased legends and then, one day, you see them speak, and it’s still very rewarding.

Why did it take so long?
First, three problems had to be solved. Is it legal? Yes, we can do it without the consent of the heirs. Then there was the technological aspect. Before that, I went to Israel, to England, and ended up calling on a company in Paris, Mac Guff, that initially didn’t want to do it. Then there was the issue of location because I wouldn’t be doing the show in a cemetery. There was a whole design period and then there were dangers. Takis Candilis, the boss of France Télévisions programs, didn’t want me to come back, I still don’t understand why. He made me write that “Hôtel du temps” was not a public broadcaster! Then there was the reelection of Delphine Ernotte, then the Covid.

“I have created a metaverse in which I wander”

Thierry Ardisson on “Hotel du temps”

How did this idea of ​​reviving deceased personalities come about?
This idea was born a very long time ago. I had already done that with look-alikes, John Lennon in “Gone with time”, Baudelaire in “Everybody talks about it”, Victor Hugo in a bonus called “Bedos/Ardisson: we’ll have seen everything!”. We had argued and to reconcile we had a bonus on France 2 on Saturday, you can imagine the time! Guy Bedos had agreed to come on the condition that there were Jamel Debbouze and Victor Hugo. Jamel never came, but I brought Victor Hugo, played by Jean-Claude Drouot. I didn’t want that anymore with lookalikes and comedians, it’s a bit of cabaret.

Can you explain the concept to us in a few words?
I interview deceased legends. I let them tell their whole life story. There are three acts: what people know best about them; then the course of their career, then from their childhood to the beginning of their career; plus an epilogue on death. All emissions are on the same model, it is one size. All this in a certain universe, the Hôtel du temps with the concierge, the butler… In fact, I have created a metaverse in which I wander. For example, at some point I can’t find Coluche anymore, nobody knows where he is and I see him stealing Serge Gainsbourg’s breakfast (laughs)!

You do what you want in your metaverse, yet everything the legends say is true…
That’s why it takes so long to make. I give items (origin, childhood, studies, etc.) to librarians who collect all the sentences actually spoken or written about them. Then I’m faced with this pile of literal words that I have to arrange in a scenario, by putting the questions after the answers. It’s “Danger”!

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Have you asked the heirs and assigns for their opinion?
Legally I don’t have to, but I do it for ethical reasons and in the end I win because they help me improve my screenplay. I first show them the head recreated in “deepfake”; we always take the legends in their most iconic period. Then I have them read the script and finally they watch the finished show. The children of Coluche rejected my first screenplay. At the time I was green, but they weren’t wrong, there were things I hadn’t noticed.

How do you respond to those who are already criticizing?
The “deepfake”, we only use it for harmful or humorous reasons: Barack Obama in an orgy or Hitler and Stalin singing Abba. I am the first to use it for a positive and cultural purpose. It’s a tool. But a tool has no ideology. The proof: Jean-Michel Blanquer asked me to create a National Education program in which Napoleon told his life story! Innovations have always shocked. When the Lumière brothers made The train entering La Ciotat station, the people in the room ran away. I remember in the 1950’s, at the dawn of television, people said that television emitted rays that caused cancer! Despite novelties, there has always been mistrust.

Do you know that it can be shocking to talk about the dead?
I don’t give a damn! What do they do in biopics other than talk about the dead? There will be criticism, that’s for sure, but they don’t scare me. It is expected that there will be a number of renegades who do not see the point of making biopics in this way. Besides, I don’t let the dead speak, I let them repeat what they’ve already said, it’s not the same. Gabin does not speak of “yellow vests”, Dalida does not speak of Lady Gaga… These are only authentic sentences.

ALSO READ – Thierry Ardisson: “I had to take a break”

You’ve hosted talk shows for a long time. Are those days over?
Fully! There are no more stars! Those who are left behind are no longer on TV and those who are on TV are afraid of social networks. Now the guests ask to have the questions first. When they came to my house, they knew they were taking a risk. Today talk shows are just promo! If it’s to find myself in front of Amir and Amel Bent… I have nothing against them, but I don’t want to interview them.

“I struggle between the vulgar side of Cyril Hanouna and the somewhat timid side of Yann Barthès”

Thierry Ardisson

How do you watch current talk shows?
I don’t look at them. I do not care. Between the vulgar side of Cyril Hanouna and the somewhat fearful side of Yann Barthès, with Maïa Mazaurette saying: “Today we’re going to talk about penis size, ohohoho”, I have problems. When I look at one, it’s “C à vous”.

Don’t you watch TV anymore?
I spend time on YouTube: the best channel ever! We can watch a documentary about Stefan Zweig, and then Beyoncé’s latest music video! There is no channel that can offer that. It’s addicting.

Why such a disinterest in television?
I am not a child of TV, but a child of the ORTF. I was raised by Jean-Christophe Averty, Daisy de Galard, Denise Glaser, Jean Yanne, François Chalais, Pierre Dumayet… I had the most beautiful television in the world, the most cultivating, the most original and the most creative. I was badly used! There was a time when I never missed Karl Zéro’s “Le Faux Journal”. Today, apart from “The Portrait” from “Sept à eight” (laughs), there’s nothing that makes me say: “Shit, you didn’t see that, it’s stupid”† I’m not a big vise.

Who do you think your successor could be?
Nobody. It will seem pretentious par excellence – but everyone knows I am a bit -, I don’t think there is anyone who combines general knowledge with a taste for “entertainment”. There are people who are good at culture, others who are good at fun, but someone who can interview Breat Easton Ellis and two minutes after making a joke about a bimbo’s hair color has no steps.

ALSO READ – Thierry Ardisson: “I wasn’t copied very much otherwise television would be nicer”

Could you, unlike Michel Drucker, do without television?
I didn’t work there for three years and I did very well without it. I started TV when I was 35, it was not my calling. When I was little, I didn’t tell myself I wanted to do TV when I grew up. I did TV because I was pissed off at commercials and because I got money to do what I wanted. I don’t have that in me. It’s not in my DNA. For three years I have not regretted for a second that I did not do a talk show. On the other hand, I am very happy to have worked on a TV project for three years, which is not the same. And then when I’m invited to a show, I’m very happy. It makes me happy when I’m there, but I don’t say to myself every day: “Damn, I’m not here anymore”

How do you envision the end of your career?
Not on screen or with Face Retriever! (laughs). I liked the idea of ​​”Hôtel du temps” and I would like to keep playing with this techno, to create an even more phantasmagoric universe. You see, I’m nostalgic, but use the latest technology.

Would you like to be brought back to life in the same way after you die?
I would like. With the same process in which I’m going to interview myself, of course. (Smile).

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