Amodio prepares different kind of 'Free Program'

Former European champ starring in movie as -- what else? -- a figure skater

Florent Amodio acts in a scene with Jean Corso, who plays his coach in <i>Programme Libre</i>.
Florent Amodio acts in a scene with Jean Corso, who plays his coach in Programme Libre. (Tim Aspert)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(07/03/2012) - Some skaters vacation in exotic places, some are already busy preparing their programs for the upcoming season, and still others go from one exhibition to the next to meet their fans and cover some of their training fees.

Florent Amodio has chosen a different kind of a routine for his summer: Besides extensive on- and off-ice training, he has taken the time to star in a movie titled Programme Libre ("The Free Program"), to be released next fall.

Amodio has built a reputation for always being busy, even when he is not on the ice. His summer schedule would fill a whole column in itself.

"I will nonetheless allow myself some vacation," Amodio quickly corrected. "I have a week and a half off at the beginning of August!"

Amodio has just finished working on his skating skills and physical conditioning throughout the month of June. He is now ready to go back to New York City for a three-week training session with his coach, Nikoli Morozov.

Amodio has never hidden his love for New York.

"It is a truly unique city. It is full of artists and exudes creativity. That city really corresponds to who I am: If you want to do this, you do this; if you want to dress like that, you just dress like that."

He will go back to the dance studio where he has practiced the dancing movements he used in his recent programs.

"Of course, I have to go there each time!" he said, laughing.

A few hours before heading to the United States, Amodio talked to about the film-making experience. How did you get the idea to act in the film?

Amodio: In fact, I was approached by a young filmmaker, Vianney Etossé, during the French national championships last December. He had been working on the project for three or four years, found a producer and sponsors. I had very little time, but I could afford several days this summer, and we took the opportunity. How was the movie made?

Amodio: Vianney told me a lot about what being an actor meant. I went to Nice, and it was rather strange to be in the very same practice rink of the last world championships. Also, we met exactly the same weather conditions as we had last March: It was raining and cold in Paris, and we had sunny and warm weather in Nice. The good thing was that I could practice at the same time as we were shooting! What is the story of the movie?

Amodio: I portrayed a teenage skater named Gauthier. Gauthier feels stuck between his coach and his father; his coach is very despotic on skating technique and does not care about the artistic side of the sport, whereas Gauthier feels much more attracted by dancing and art. Gauthier's dad works in a garage and does not care about his son's passion. He is kind of like "Come see my cars," and that's it.

In fact, I accepted this role because I loved the scenario, and feel that it looks like me! The story climaxes at the end, and it's very beautiful. We'll see what it looks like after it is made up. How did it feel being an actor?

Amodio: In fact, I was surprised by the intensity of the rhythm we had to follow. It reminded me of the training sessions I have with my skating buddies, when you spend one full week working like crazy and have no extra time.

Behaving naturally was not really a problem for me, because that's the way I am. Also, I took theatre classes when I was younger, so it was not too difficult. It was more difficult to remain concentrated all the time, because I like to have fun!

I took the whole thing very seriously, because I was the main character and some actors were top notch. (One of them played in the famed movie The Da Vinci Code.) I did not want to be the one who would make the movie fail, so I worked really hard to learn my text. Reading and memorizing are not my thing, but once we started, it was less difficult than I had expected.

While shooting the movie, it was interesting for me to feel that I could listen to myself talk. The concentration is very different than in skating: When you skate, you are in your bubble, like in a tunnel, and you have to go all the way through. When you are acting, you need to keep the same exact mood and have the right mimics at the right time, without doing too much either.

The good thing was that many scenes were taking place on the ice, so I could express myself in my own environment, and that helped me a lot. I have to say that I received the best compliment there: When he saw me skate, one actor said to the filmmaker, "Wow, you've found an actor who can skate a little!" He had taken me for a real trained actor, which I am obviously not. I was very proud of that. After a while, of course, they understood that I was a real skater.

Altogether, I came back completely exhausted but happy. It was just endless days, from 5:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day, and from noon to 2:00 a.m. the last days, because we had to shoot night scenes. How do you think this experience will help your skating?

Amodio: Well, to be honest, there is a bit of cinema in our sport! You need to act! (He laughs.) The program I picked for this year will require a lot of interpretation. You will see that when next season starts. So shooting this movie was a fantastic experience for me.

I really love to grab all the experiences I can. Little by little, they allow me to become who I am. They create my self. I actually need this, to be able to skate better and better in front of a 10,000-spectator audience. Also, you never know, it might open new doors for me...

Icenetwork: This experience did not hamper your preparations for the season?

Amodio: Oh, no. I do not want to fall into the same traps as I did last year. (Amodio arrived unprepared to the Grand Prix season and had to catch up in the following weeks to finally recompose himself at the European championships, where he took the bronze medal.) This year I have not stopped practicing after worlds, as I did last year. We had the World Team Trophy, and then I just softened the intensity of training. Since then, I have done numerous other sports, among those soccer. I am in excellent physical shape and ready to start a new season. Also, the music of my two programs is almost ready. I am really eager to qualify for the Grand Prix Final this time. It will take place in Sochi, and I need to see the place before the Games!

After his three-week training session in New York City, Amodio will come back to Courchevel, in the French Alps, to gather with the French team.

"Then, on August 10, I should go back to my coach. The pre-Olympic season will be launched, and I will not let a minute go before October," Amodio added.

He may just take some time to watch the movie once it is ready.

"That should be in September," he added. "It will be shown in various festivals throughout the fall and winter."

For more information about Programme Libre, visit the official website, the Facebook fan page and the website of the movie studio, M & M Films Services.