In nearly 60 years of career, he has been everywhere, on all stages and on all screens, big and small. But at 78, Raymond Bouchard has decided to slow down to simply enjoy what makes up his daily happiness.
Don’t go asking him if he’s retired. The answer will come straight away: this profession that he has been practicing since his early twenties, he has not left it. “If an interesting project comes up, I’ll say yes, that’s for sure. But I have to fall in love. »
As in real life where the appearance of Cupid is difficult to predict, the love of a role sometimes depends on very little.
However, he has just accepted a role in the comedy Le placard, by Frenchman Francis Veber, presented this summer in Rougemont and Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts. He plays the role of the neighbor and confidant of François Pignon (played by Sébastien Dodge), a man without stature who sees the looks on his person change after the revelation of his (feigned) homosexuality.
Comedian, producer and theater director Jean-Bernard Hébert is part of the adventure. He considers himself privileged to be able to share the stage with the man he has considered his mentor and friend for almost 30 years. “Beyond the fact that Raymond is a fabulous actor, he is a great pragmatic humanist who acts as a catalyst in a troupe. He has such a bearing! And he is so touching and endearing. It’s a real monument! »
Raymond Bouchard, obviously, is delighted with this new project. “Making people laugh is one of the greatest privileges of this job. It is very rewarding. This play is really funny and the other actors are so good! It’s a real gang trip! I’ll have to watch out for the giggles on stage! »
Because what many do not know is that Raymond Bouchard suffers from two ailments associated with his job: stage fright (which continues to burn his chest despite the passage of years) and an irrepressible desire to burst out laughing when a sidekick stammers or gets tangled up in his replies.
And opportunities to laugh (or cry), his career is full of them. One look at his curriculum vitae makes one dizzy. He held the greatest roles on stage – Argan in The Imaginary Invalid, Othello in the play of the same name, George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? –, acted in films here and in France – notably King Guillaume –, won Gemini for roles on the small screen – in Gold and Paper, among others…
However, it all started almost by chance, at the insistence of Father Thibodeau, a Eudist who taught him in the classical course. “He thought I had a good voice and suggested I join the theater group. My first reaction was to say no! I’m way too embarrassed. This son of a linotypist (who sang in Gregorian every morning at mass) overcame his embarrassment and played a part in a school production, then another. At Laval University (where he first enrolled in Latin and Greek), he joined the troupe Les Treize, which he eventually led before enrolling at the Conservatoire de Québec, at the 24 years old.
“That was the age limit to go back then. I already had the start of my professional career: at 18, I was paid $8 a night to play in a neighborhood theater in Quebec. I also did drama shows on the radio. If I enrolled at the Conservatoire, it was mainly to work on the classics. »
His time at the Quebec Conservatory will be a whirlwind passage: he asks to be transferred to Montreal after three months and skips his second year of studies to go directly to terminale… where his attendance at classes is random to say the least!
Upon leaving the Conservatoire, he spent a year touring Europe with his partner at the time, Marie Tifo. “We visited experimental theaters in Poland, Russia; we slept in our van. Since I’m a type 1 diabetic, I was dragging around a bag of syringes and insulin! It was a bit tricky to get through customs, especially since I looked like a hippie! »
However, it is difficult to imagine Raymond Bouchard with flowers in his hair, his imposing voice having sown the roles of CEO, police officer or badass on his way.
It was with the role of an ex-prisoner that he made his television debut in 1978, in the soap opera Race de monde by Victor-Lévy Beaulieu. “It was the first time I was recognized on the street. People called me Ostifi, after my character’s patois! »
After years of multiplying roles, sometimes to the detriment of his health – he has already landed in the hospital panicked to be prescribed rest -, Raymond Bouchard today savors the peace of mind that is his. “I gave in my life. When I work, I always want to give 200%. Today, I like to be able to have my coffee and eat my orange quietly in the morning. I have no problem not talking for three days! I am convinced that I have already been a monk in another life! I also like to take care of my two daughters, even if they are grown. The family remains the most important thing for me. »
He devotes his days to reading – everything related to cosmology or quantum physics interests him – but above all to listening to classical music and opera. On the subject, the actor is inexhaustible. He speaks with sparkles in his eyes of the genius of Mozart and Haydn, of Bach “who must have been very funny in life”, of Rachmaninoff, of Brahms.
His pupils become just as bright when he talks about the roles he would have dreamed of taking on and which risk escaping him. King Lear’s, first. “I would have loved to fight with this huge role, but at 78 years old, I doubt I am physically strong enough. »
He also came close to realizing the dream of playing aging actor James Tyrone in Eugene O’Neil’s The Long Journey into Night. The play, scheduled for the 2019-2020 Rideau Vert season in a staging by Yves Desgagnés, has been postponed twice due to the pandemic. “What a beautiful role!” I was so happy to be able to play it. This piece is a classic of the 20th century repertoire. The set – a huge canvas by Turner – is still in the theater’s warehouse, but it’s still unclear if the play will be revived or not…”
In the meantime, he has this role in Le cupboard to defend, a role that will take him on a pan-Quebec tour in 2024. With, on the program, no doubt one or two giggles…