Bright Side

20+ Facts About the Moving and Honest “Untouchables” That Won the Hearts of Millions

The movie is based on the events of the life of French aristocrat, Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Algerian immigrant, Abdel Sellou. In 1993, Philippe was paralyzed after an accident. 3 years later, his wife died of cancer and the millionaire went into a serious depression.

Philippe wasn’t able to take care of himself, so he needed an assistant. Of all the candidates, he chose Abdel, who came to the interview in order to not lose his French visa. The 42-year-old millionaire and the 21-year-old guy from the streets quickly became friends. And the story of their friendship is the base of one of the most popular French movies of all time.

We at Bright Side absolutely love this film. In this article, aside from the interesting facts about the film, you will also see a very positive bonus.

  • Directors of the film, Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, found out about the unusual friendship story from a series of documentary movies. In 2002, Philippe and Abdel appeared in this project in an episode called À la vie, à la mort.
  • This is what Philippe says about his friendship with Abdel, “He didn’t feel sorry for me. He was irreverent, cheeky, and had an outrageous sense of humor. I suddenly found I was enjoying life again, feeling like I didn’t know what was coming next. This is the guy I needed. I don’t care that he is out of jail. I needed him. And he became a friend afterward.”

Philippe and Abdel in 2011

  • In the movie, the paralyzed millionaire has the same name as he does in real life — Philippe but instead of Abdel who is from Algeria, they hired Driss from Senegal who was portrayed by Omar Sy. The directors changed the nationality of the character in the story in order to be able to cast Omar.
  • The directors had previously worked with this actor in Tellement proches and decided that he would be a great fit for the role of the assistant with a big heart. Also, Sy was cast long before the script was even complete.
  • Omar Sy, just like his character, wasn’t born into a rich family. His parents moved from west Africa and started to live near Paris, in a district for needy people. Aside from Omar, there were 7 other children in their family.
  • The actor absolutely loves the story of the film, “I think it’s a very human story, and it’s funny and touching... Philippe chooses Driss as his caretaker partly because he doesn’t see him as disabled or pity him. He just sees another person.”
  • While preparing for the job, Sy wanted to be in top physical condition and lost weight. The actor saw his character as a guy who’d just gotten out of prison and lived in a poor district. So he had to be skinnier than Omar himself was.
  • The role of Philippe was given to the famous French actor François Cluzet. It was quite a difficult job to portray a paralyzed businessman. But Cluzet did a wonderful job, even though almost the only thing he had to act with were his eyes. “I’m an actor who isn’t fond of dialogue and who loves to act silently. That means I usually need my body to express things... Driss becomes my body in a way.
  • Driss looked very nervous in the first scene where he meets Philippe, and that was intentional. The directors wanted to show the contrast between how mobile Driss was and how immobile Philippe was.
  • Of course, not everything we see in the film happened in reality, in exactly the same way. The jokes that Abdel made about Philippe in reality, couldn’t have been shown in the film. But in general, the creators showed the events very close to how they really happened, including the fact that Abdel stole a Fabergé egg during the job interview.
  • Abdel became the “guardian devil” for Philippe and they did all kinds of bad things together, some of which made the cut in the film. He installed a powerful engine on Philippe’s wheelchair so they could race.
  • The chase sequence the movie starts with is real. These guys were having fun speeding until they were stopped by the police. Then, Philippe would simulate an epileptic seizure forcing the policemen to let him and Abdel go to the nearest hospital.
  • By the way, the car Driss drives in the film is a Maserati Quattroporte. During the chase sequence, most of the stunts were done by a stunt man, but some of them were also done by Sy himself.
  • A funny coincidence: François Cluzet portrayed Philippe and the sister of the real Philippe, Valérie Pozzo di Borgo, created the costumes for another movie with Cluzet — the comedy Les apprentis.
  • At the end of the film, we see the real millionaire and his assistant. They are still friends, even though they don’t see each other as often as they used to. The men left France: Abdel returned to Algeria where he opened a bird farm, and Philippe moved to Morocco. “Abdel and I finished our collaboration when we both found our soul mates. We finished our time together without sadness or difficulty.”

Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, with his wife and daughters

  • The movie has had several remakes. For example, the 2017 film The Upside with Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston. Not a single one of the remakes was as well-received as the original.
  • Philippe wrote a book titled A Second Wind, where he talked about how his assistant and friend brought him back to life. Abdel also wrote a book about their friendship. It’s called You Changed My Life.
  • Before they started working on the film, Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano went to Morocco to visit Philippe Pozzo di Borgo. When they met the real Philippe, they realized they were going the right way. The millionaire told them about a great number of details from his life and gave them guidance on almost every scene of their future movie.
  • More than that, Philippe insisted that the film should be more of a comedy than a drama. According to the filmmakers, he only gave the rights to his story because they wanted to make a comedy.
  • In 2012, Éric Toledano said that after the release of the film, he received more than 3,000 letters of gratitude from different countries from people that have to use wheelchairs. He said that we would cry if he showed us all these letters.

Directors of the film Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano (on the right)

Bonus: Quotes from the film that will give you a positive charge

  • “Be careful. You know guys from the suburbs have no mercy.”
    “That’s what I want. No mercy.”

  • “You enjoy paintings?”
    “I do. I adore Raphael.”
    “I prefer the other ninja turtles.”

  • “Do you have references?”
    “References? I do.”
    “So? We’re all ears.”
    “Kool and the Gang,’ ’Earth, Wind and Fire. Those are good references, aren’t they?”

  • “The guy had a nosebleed and he wants 30 grand for it?”

  • “It’s not music if you can’t dance to it.”

  • “Sometimes, you have to look inside someone else’s word to see what your world is lacking.”

  • “He has a problem. A big one.”
    “Shush yourself.”
    “He’s a tree... A singing tree. In German?”
    “Shush!”
    “Stop shushing me! It’s in German anyway. As if it wasn’t enough. You’re crazy. Oh, man. How long does it last?”
    “4 hours.”

  • “It’s intellectual. Emotional. It comes before the physical relationship for me.”
    “Intellectual alright, but what if she looks like a dog? You’d be having an intellectual relationship with a dog.”

  • “It doesn’t matter who you are on the outside, the main thing is who you are on the inside.”

And of course, we have to show you this amazing episode with Driss dancing.

What do you think about this film? Is it fair that it didn’t win an Oscar or do you think that awards don’t mean anything compared to the love from the public?