The bottom of the air was fresh Thursday, boulevard Saint-Laurent, while the family of Michel Côté welcomed the public to the Monument-National. On the other hand, the testimonies of people who came to pay tribute to the actor, who died on May 29, were very warm.
All day, admirers, artists and politicians paraded on the stage of the Ludger-Duvernay room, where the coffin of the actor had been deposited. A symbolic place. Because the Monument-National, inaugurated in 1893, is the oldest operating theater in Quebec, in addition to housing the National Theater School of Canada, where Michel Côté studied acting in the early 1970s.
The wife of the deceased, Véronique Le Flaguais, his two sons, Charles and Maxime, accompanied by their spouses, as well as his mother, Jeannine Belley, who came from Alma to attend the Ardent Chapel, were also on stage in a mixture of warmth and sobriety. Everyone seemed grateful to have known Michel Côté on the sets, or simply to have seen him in the theater and on the screen.
“We carry it within us as an actor. Because we are all rich heirs of Michel, “said Luc Senay, who has fond memories of the filming of the films From father to cop and The sense of humor. “It was a joy to play with Michel. We always felt good,” added Geneviève Schmidt. The actress thus sums up the thoughts of many of her comrades in the profession.
“Humanity, generosity, solidity are the words that come to mind when I think of him,” added Patrice Coquereau. Michel had a lot of talent and zero pretension. »
“A wonderful, happy, generous and loving man, testified Louise Latraverse. Michel and Véronique were so in love. It’s rare, a love like theirs. »
Another friend of the couple, the actress Linda Sorgini remembers having shared the stage with Véronique Le Flaguais in the play Mousse, the female counterpart of Broue, directed by Michel Côté and Jean-Guy Viau, in 1981, at the Théâtre des Voyages. “We were a lot less successful than the original play,” she said. But it was so pleasant to work with Michel. He was unifying and generous with everyone. »
Author Simon Boulerice insisted on coming Thursday even though he knew the actor later: at the National Day show in Quebec in 2019. “I remember a very enveloping, very welcoming man”, he said. Côté’s favorite role? “It’s Gervais Beaulieu, the father in C.R.A.Z.Y. A landmark film and an unforgettable performance! Danielle Proulx has already said that Michel had a happy job. It’s true. »
Guy Tremblay, 82, was a teacher and animator at the Center culturel de Jonquière. “I saw Michel Côté play in the theater when I was 16, 17. And I remember telling him, “Don’t stay in Saguenay, you have international talent!” »
Members of the public and artists also testified to the simplicity, sincerity and attentiveness of the actor from Alma. “Michel, it was good household bread, as we say in Saguenay,” further illustrated Guy Tremblay. “For me, he was a majestic oak tree, a colossus and a nationalist,” commented Jacqueline Delorme, from Montreal, who came to pay tribute to an “exemplary Quebecer”.
The most surprising testimony collected on the sidewalk was that of props man Philippe Pointard, who knew Michel Côté when Broue was created, nearly 45 years ago. “I molded his face to make Verrue’s dummy, the tough guy in the room. As the character falls asleep at the table and Côté had to play several characters, he was replaced by a puppet in his effigy. »
“For me, Michel…is Gervais Beaulieu when he hugs Zacharie when his son Raymond dies after the funeral,” C.R.A.Z.Y. screenwriter François Boulay wrote this week on Facebook. “I told Michel that the movie gods were with him on the day of the shoot. This scene of father-son reconciliation is the most beautiful gift that life could give me. When Michel hugs Marc-André Grondin in his arms, under the benevolent gaze of Danielle Proulx, he embraces all of Quebec! »
Thursday at the Monument-National, it was Michel Côté’s turn to let all of Quebec speak of love.