Pete Doherty goes from druggie to luvvie as he makes his film debut

The former Libertines frontman was reportedly 'literary and sincere' on the set of Confession of a Child of the Century

Pete Doherty is a man of many talents, some more dubious than others. First there was Doherty the singer, then Doherty the druggie wastrel, Doherty the jailbird and Doherty the boyfriend of model Kate Moss.

Now the enfant terrible of British rock has reincarnated once again as Doherty the actor. The singer has just finished shooting his first film in France, where he has attained cult status, not just as a musical star but as a poète maudit, a tragic literary figure and tortured soul.

In Confession of a Child of the Century, Doherty, 32, stars opposite Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of British-born Jane Birkin and her late partner, Gallic bad boy Serge Gainsbourg, to whom many French fans believe Doherty bears more than a passing resemblance.

The Babyshambles and Libertines frontman plays Octavian, a 19th-century dandy, in the movie, based on a book by French writer Alfred de Musset. He falls in love with a widow 10 years his senior played by Gainsbourg, but is consumed with despair when he believes she has betrayed him.

In exclusive clips seen by the Guardian, Doherty appears to be doing what he does best: mooching around appearing doleful and wrecked – emotionally, on this particular occasion – and peppering his dolorous sighing with poetic interludes. He certainly looks the part in top hat and dresscoat, an effect spoiled in one promotional photo by a visible 21st-century tattoo on his neck – the name of his son Astile – spotted above his silk cravat.

The film's director, Sylvie Verheyde, who has won prizes including a César (the French equivalent of an Oscar), says Doherty was surprisingly good in his first acting role.

"It went really well. I wasn't a fan before and of course I knew his reputation, but I laid down the rules and he kept them. He was on time every day, he didn't turn up with a hangover and he never missed a single shoot," she said.

"In fact he was much more pleasant and less of a pain than many professional actors. He's cultivated, literary, sincere and has emotional depth."

She said Doherty's reputation had not helped raise the money for the film, which is €25,000 (£22,000) short of its modest €3m budget. The decision to shoot it in English – Doherty does not speak French – also meant it received none of the generous grants France normally allocates to productions.

To raise the shortfall, fans are being invited to make donations in return for a piece of the film action, including tickets, DVDs and photos. Doherty is extraordinarily popular in France, where fans queue for hours to see him perform, and forgive him when – as frequently happens – he does not show.

Verheyde believes it is because he is seen through his lyrics as a "literary figure, a poet". Others liken him to the Gauloises-puffing, hard-drinking Serge Gainsbourg, seen as a talented but ultimately tragic figure. "Charlotte admitted Pete did remind her a bit of her father," said Verheyde.


Kim Willsher

The GuardianTramp

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