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Meet the stars of powerful gay AIDS drama ‘120 BPM (Beats per Minute)’

Arnaud Valois and Nahuel Pérez Biscayart lead one of the most important LGBT films of the year.

By Will Stroude

After debuting to overwhleming criticial acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival last year, stunning gay AIDS drama 120 BPM (Beats per Minute) finally comes to UK cinemas this Friday (April 6).

Directed by Robin Campillo (Eastern Boys), the French-language film movingly tells the story of a group of AIDS activists in early ’90s Paris as they fight to make the French government take urgent action at the height of the epidemic.

The movie is sure to move British audiences when it opens this week, and the film’s stars Arnaud Valois and Nahuel Pérez Biscayart reveal just how deep their own commitment to the story runs in our new May issue, available to download and in shops now.

Arnaud had a promising acting career ahead of him when he was cast in his first major film role in Nicole Garcia’s Charlie Says, but the film was booed at Cannes and after picking a few more small acting roles, he decided to pack it all in for good.

Arnaud Valois (left) and Nahuel Pérez Biscayart (r), shot by Markus Bidaux for Attitude’s May Issue.

Now 34, the Lyon-born actor explains how 120 BPM moved him to come out of retirement and take on his most challenging role yet.

“I received a call two years ago from the casting director I used to work with and she asked me if I wanted to audition for her,” he recalls. “I said, ‘No thank you, I’m done with this’.

“But she explained that the film was about ACT UP, and as a gay man myself I guess it was really interesting to be involved in this story so I said, ‘Oh, OK, why not?'”

Arnaud goes on to reveal that being a formerly retired gay actor making his comeback in a gay-centric film hasn’t prevented the work offers from flooding in since.

“I was not an actor when I got cast in the role, so it was not a question that I asked myself,” Arnaud says when asked if he had any concerns about being typecast.

“Then after the movie I received 20 to 25 scripts and only two were gay stories so I don’t really see it as an issue.

“Because of the journey I’m on, because of massage and therapy, on working on myself, I can’t hide now. I wouldn’t be cool with that.

“When Ricky Martin goes to the Golden Globes with his boyfriend and they are holding hands, and they are beautiful and successful, that’s a good way of showing gay people.”

Meanwhile, Arnaud’s co-star Nahuel opens up about the shocking weight loss he endured to play ACT UP activist Sean – a role which saw him scoop a prestigious César Award for Best Newcomer.

The 31-year-old Argentinian actor, who had never spoken a word of French before accepting the part, tells us: “I wish I’d had more time to lose more weight — I was losing the weight while shooting the film and had to lose 15kg in 15 days.

“Now I can laugh about it but at the time I was waking up and almost fainting in the morning.”

He adds: “It wasn’t a nice moment of my life but at the same time I knew that it was just for a short period and it would also help to facilitate things so that the character would be in that state.”

Read more about 120 BPM (Beats per Minute) and the incredible true events that inspired the film in Attitude’s May Issue. Buy in print, subscribe or download now.