Has there ever been a more under-the-radar series than Call My Agent!? Now four seasons deep, the smart, stylish and funny French series deserves is the comedy show that Emily In Paris wishes it could be; yet the Lily Collins stinker was all that was ever offered up to me on a deep scroll via my algorithm. Merci pour rien, Netflix.
I’m just a mere six years late to the party – Call My Agent! is broadcast in France as the far-chicer sounding Dix Pour Cent (10 per cent; the cut agents traditionally take from their clients) and began life on channel France 2 in 2015. Like a modern day Mad Men, except set in an actors agency, rather than an advertising agency, the drama plays out between the agency’s office and the actors’ film sets. We’re shown the mechanisms behind the Agence Samuel Kerr (ASK)’s wheeling and dealing industry players, micro-dramas of the amiable colleagues and the interplay of the celebrities who they represent.
Similar to Ricky Gervais’ Extras, only without his unbearable smugness, each episode features a real-life celebrity, playing a fictionalised version of themselves. Once again, I was slow on the uptake on this, until I Googled “Is Norman really a famous French YouTuber?” to find out that yes, he was, and he has 12 million followers on YouTube to boot.
In series one, the cameos weren't that recognisable to anyone who hasn't spent a year living in Paris, but by series two the reputation of the show had begun to precede itself, and the A-listers came calling. By series three and the four, international stars were clamouring for a part in which they could send themselves up.
But the time has now passed for any actors or directors to blag a part in one of French TV’s biggest success stories. The fourth – and final – series recently dropped on Netflix, although producer, Dominique Besnehard, told The Guardian he hasn’t ruled out the idea of a film. Apparently Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Aniston and other big names have also been dropping hints they’d like to appear in any future work. Look – we all know how those Hollywood remakes work out. Just say non!
As the show takes its final bow, here’s a look back at some of Call My Agent!'s most iconic celebrity cameos.
Monica Bellucci (Season 3, Episode 2)
Named the most beautiful woman in the world several times, Belluci was more than happy to send up her own image in one of the funniest episodes of Call My Agent!. Her scrappy but charming agent Gabriel offers her some work on an advertising campaign, but she’s more direct about what she actually wants: a man.
After a brief flirtation with a bookseller in his shop – she’s inspired by Notting Hill, she reveals – she then goes undercover in a blonde wig, as ‘Chantal’, to a house party with Gabriel, only to be told by an oblivious paramour that he thought the real Bellucci is stupid and fake. Bellucci then turns her sights on Gabriel, inviting him up for some mushroom risotto – a euphemism if I’ve ever heard one – and pounces on him.
Juliette Binoche (Season 2, Episode 6)
Star of The English Patient and Chocolat, Binoche is central to the grand finale of series two, set at the Cannes Film Festival. She is due to give the opening speech at the ceremony, but minutes before she’s due on stage, she’s desperate for a wee. As she runs around backstage in her haute couture dress – and fending off advances from a Harvey Weinstein-like character – she eventually arrives on stage all flustered, dress ripped and hair askew. But, with a speech championing the inclusion of women in the industry, she pulls it off, because she’s Juliette Binoche, of course. Known for her real-life activist work, her story on screen played well into her passions and causes IRL.
Béatrice Dalle (Season 3, Episode 5)
The woman who launched a million university halls posters, Dalle played Betty Blue in the 1986 erotic thriller of the same name, and she jumped on board CMA! to play an actor standing up to a pushy director. She points out – quite fairly – that as she’s playing a corpse, there’s absolutely no need for her to be naked. The director disagrees, and Béatrice takes some time out in a convent to relax, totally turning her reputation on its head.
Charlotte Gainsbourg (Season 4, Episode 1)
The daughter of legendary French singer, Serge Gainsbourg, but also an actor and musician in her own right, Gainsbourg is more used to appearing in edgy thrillers such as Antichrist or Melancholia, but in this series, she’s signed up to star as a three-armed time-traveller in a mortifyingly bad sci-fi movie. It’s made even more complicated by the fact it’s written by her best friend, Oscar, and her agent, the usually indomitable Andrea, signed her up having not read the terrible script. Only a ruse that she’s broken her leg might help her escape.
The man who portrayed Leon in the eponymous film and Vincent in Ronin takes on a far more leftfield role for CMA!: Santa Claus, and he’s chugging pastis at 10am to cope with it. The schmaltzy kids Christmas film has led him to become jaded with the whole industry and wants to quit – but can his agent Andrea convince him to carry on, even if it’s just to save their agency?
Sigourney Weaver (Season 4, Episode 5)
The casting that took the show stateside, Sigourney Weaver told Variety that she agreed to the part “without even reading the script – the first and last time I’ve done that in my life.” She steps into the series – speaking French apparently fluently, who knew? – gorging on Laduree macarons, but is devastated to hear her younger love interest in her film has pulled out. Making a stand against ageism in the film industry she comments: “If I were a guy, they would have cast a girl half my age and no one would have paid any attention”. If there’s anyone in the world who understands an unconventional love affair, it’s the French. Like so many of the other standalone episodes in the series, it pokes holes at attitudes in the industry, making a subtle point through the use of the guest star. Bravo, Call My Agent!, et au revoir.
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