Florian Zeller looks to next film as he savors Oscar win

Hollywood, United States: French writer Florian Zeller spoke of his "great joy" after winning the best-adapted screenplay Oscar for "The Father" but is already focused on his next project, "The Son", a new take on one of his plays.

"We started the evening with the Oscar for best screenplay and we ended it with the Oscar for best actor for Anthony Hopkins," Zeller said in a telephone interview with AFP shortly after his victory.

He received his award in Paris, where the Oscars set up a venue for artists unable to travel to Los Angeles due to the pandemic.

"It makes it all the more meaningful for me that I don't separate the desire to make this film from the desire that I had to do it with him (Hopkins), I wrote it for him," the 41-year-old said.

"Being able to share this moment, this recognition, and this joy with Anthony Hopkins makes it all the more meaningful for me," he said.

"The Father," which was Zeller's first time directing a feature film, follows an old man played by Hopkins slipping into a disturbing bout of dementia.

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Adapting his play of the same name to the big screen allowed him to go even further with the story, he said.

"What I absolutely did not want to do films a play, but do something that only cinema can do," with renowned playwright Christopher Hampton, who translated the play into English for Zeller and shared the Oscar win with him.

"The uniqueness of this piece was to put the spectator in a unique position as if he was in the head of the main character. I wanted 'The Father' to be not just a story but an experience, the experience of what it might mean to lose all your bearings, including as a spectator," he said.

"I wanted this film to be able to extend that into an even more immersive experience, which the language of cinema allows. To really be in the brain of this character."

Like father, like son? 

The acclaimed French writer has already settled on his next film project, an adaptation of another of his plays, "The Son", which belongs to the same trilogy as "The Father".

Filming is set to begin this summer in New York City with several top stars including Hugh Jackman and Oscar-winning actress Laura Dern, the director revealed.

"'The Son' is a story that is very important to me. I have been working on it for many months and I am very happy to be able to bring together the actors that I admire and that I love, to be able to tell it," he said.

"The Son" tells "the story of a father and mother who no longer live together," the author explained.

"They have a 17-year-old boy who is going through a tough time, struggling with school, depression, and these parents are trying to save their son during this mysterious period that is adolescence."

After Zeller's success at the Oscars, Hollywood studios will be scrambling to secure him for future projects. And he does not rule out "working on works that are not mine."

"I started by writing novels and then I discovered the theater and it became an immense passion which occupied me for 15 years," he said.

"And then suddenly, I made this film. What I mean by that is that I learned never to close the doors, but to leave them ajar so we can be surprised by life."

But in the immediate future, his mind is elsewhere.

"In fact today, I am so focused on 'The Son' that these proposals don't really have any relevance to me," he said.

"Once I have finished 'The Son', we'll see. But, for now, what really matters to me is reaching the end of this story that I carry."

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