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The True Story That Inspired the Movie, “The Intouchables”

It often happens that we focus so much on the things we don’t have that we forget about what we do have. That’s actually a way of focusing on our shortcomings and the barriers that stop us from being our ideal selves. We’re postponing our happiness in the face of the disappointment of not being who we want to be. But sometimes, if we dare to break down our prejudices and open our hearts, there are people who, regardless of race, social class, or age, can show us not only our virtues but also how valuable we are to the world.

And if you don’t believe us, Bright Side brings you the stories of Count Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Yasmin Sellou, 2 men who felt unable to move forward but whose friendship overcame social classes, changed their lives and inspired a movie.

Who Philippe Pozzo di Borgo is

Philippe Pozzo di Borgo is a French count, businessman, and owner of an important hotel. The son of a duke, he grew up in an opulent family with all the luxuries and comforts that allowed him to study, marry, and have important jobs, such as manager of Moët & Chandon. With a promising future, Philippe’s life was enviable; however, in 1993, he had a paragliding accident that left him in a state of tetraplegia.

Unable to move on his own and with his wife then suffering from cancer, Philippe entered a state of depression that led him to make an unsuccessful attempt at taking his own life. For him, the sadness “was unbearable because I was always in control, and suddenly I was dependent on everyone, especially a wife who was ill.”

Abdel Yasmin Sellou’s background confirmed he was far from being an employee of the month.

Abdel might be the kind of person you would think twice, maybe 3 times about before hiring. He lived his childhood in a family of humble conditions with 8 siblings, developing an impulsive personality and a very bad temper. At the age of 10, he had to move to Paris to live with relatives who could take care of him, and at 16, he was expelled from school because he stole from his classmates. Far from correcting himself, at 18, he went to jail for the first time for stealing cameras from tourists. With such questionable actions at such a young age, Abdel’s future was bleak. But if there was one thing that made him special as a person, it was his charisma that captivated and endeared others from the very first moment they met him.

While serving a one-and-a-half-year prison sentence, he was given the opportunity to get out in 10 months if he reinserted himself into society by attending mechanics courses. Unfortunately, he realized that he didn’t like mechanics and had to look for a quick job, whatever it was, as long as it kept him from going back to prison. So he ended up applying for a job as a caretaker for a millionaire aristocrat and tetraplegic and his sick wife. Little did he know that the job would change his life.

Hiring him was the worst idea in the world, but it brought the best results.

After reading about Philippe’s wealthy family and his good upbringing, some people might be left wondering why someone, as refined as him, would hire someone like Abdel. For starters, Philippe, throughout his working life, had conducted many job interviews and saw in Abdel an employee with potential beyond his bad-boy looks. “He didn’t feel sorry for me. He was irreverent, cheeky, and had an outrageous sense of humor. I suddenly found that I was enjoying life again,” Philippe stated in justifying his decision.

Philippe and Abdel would often pull pranks, like getting pulled over by police for speeding and convincing them that they were rushing to the hospital. As Phillipe said, “I needed to be back on track. Pity is the last thing you need. Pity is hopeless. Pity is what someone gives you because he is afraid to take care of you.” He also felt that Abdel was the perfect person for him and said, “I don’t care that he is out of jail. I needed him. And he became a friend afterward.”

Their differences brought them together when they discovered that they both needed healing.

Abdel brought good humor, spontaneity, and humbleness, which contrasted greatly with the norms of etiquette to which Philippe was accustomed. But bit by bit, Philippe healed from depression thanks to that. “He treated me as I needed to be treated,” the count told. Abdel, with his unorthodox care, was able to go jogging in Philippe’s company and hang onto his wheelchair to create adrenaline-pumping situations by driving outside the speed limits with Philippe as co-driver, for example. These extremely crazy situations gave Philippe a joy of life again and broke the monotony of his routine.

A friendship that saved them and touched many hearts

Abdel went into what it was like before they became friends: “We were 2 desperate people looking for a way out; the rich man mad with grief over the death of his wife and the young gangster just out of jail who wanted to blow it all up. 2 outcasts supporting each other.” And after 10 years of mutual companionship and learning, in 2003, their paths parted during a trip to Morocco, where they both found partners. “Abdel and I ended our collaboration when we both found our soul mates,” explained Philippe, adding that their time together, like a story that unfolds in the best way, ended “without sadness or difficulty.”

Philippe married a Muslim woman, so he moved to his wife’s home country to raise a family with her. Abdel also married at about the same time and now runs a poultry farm in Algeria and has 3 children who call Philippe their uncle. “Before, he wouldn’t have even asked me about settling down,” Abdel said. “I was simply interested in women if they were fast food. Now I’m settled, focused on my new life.” After that life-changing friendship, both men wrote books based on their own perspectives. Abdel wrote You Have Changed My Life, and Philippe wrote Untouchable, the name that inspired the French film based on their relationship.

Nowadays, Abdel travels to Morocco from time to time to visit his friend, Philippe, and when they don’t see each other in person, Philippe is the one who calls him to hear about his adventures and wacky occurrences. Both show that the most affluent or humble person can live through great adversity. But just as problems don’t distinguish between classes, neither do friendship nor affection. And even when we feel we’re falling, there is always a helping hand that can invite us to go out of our comfort zone to surpass ourselves.

What did you like most about the story? Tell us if you’ve had a friendship that has enriched your life and if you know stories as inspiring as Philippe and Abdel’s.

Psst! Bright Side has real quizzes now. We publish new ones daily. Go check them out.

Bright Side/People/The True Story That Inspired the Movie, “The Intouchables”
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