Jean Reno looks a bit upset when I tell him that I don't like interviewing actors.
Admittedly, insulting someone's profession is not a classic opening gambit.
Though when I mention this, he corrects me: "Gerard doesn't really work any more, he has terrible trouble remembering his lines." Given that Depardieu admitted to being fed his lines via an earpiece for a stage production as long ago as 1994, things must be bad.
On top of which, a poll in France earlier this year named Reno as the country's favourite actor.
Despite his auto-critique, he is more reflective than your average people-pleaser, pausing often to consider a question, struggling for the correct English.
We're meant to be talking about his latest film, the French-language crime flick 22 Bullets, but Reno is clearly not one for the hard sell.
He moved to France at 17, but says it is his Andaluz heritage that defines his character: "The melancholy is the Andalusian in me. I tell Reno that during my research I found a very serious academic article describing him as a new genre of action hero in American cinema, complete with an analysis of his character's relationship with Robert De Niro in Ronin, as a metaphor for power relations between France and the US.
It's because, I say, they tend to be naturally entertaining, so it's only on the way home that it dawns that they have, for all the charming conversation and apparent intimacy, told you virtually nothing.
That's why I like to do a lot of comedies in France. I did try – a film called Roseanna's Grave in the 1990s. But the audience didn't come." He appears sanguine about this fact, as well he might, given the success he has enjoyed playing hitmen.
On an international scale, Reno is probably, alongside Gerard Depardieu, France's most recognisable working actor.
There is some kind of legislation in France, it appears, which means all famous people have to be friends – Hallyday shared best-man duties at Reno's 2006 wedding, to his third wife Zofia, with none other than one Nicolas Sarkozy. I don't see him so much these days; he's pretty busy," he chuckles.
Reno tells me they (he and Nicolas, that is) met while walking their dogs each night near their then-homes on Paris's Ile de la Jatte. He had broken with Chirac and was really down in his party, completely abandoned. In career terms, too, Reno, now 62, is a difficult specimen to classify.