Begaudeau's In Competition hat trick

Two writing, one acting credit in "The Class"

CANNES -- Francois Begaudeau is a) a teacher, b) a best-selling author, c) a journalist, d) a TV personality, e) a movie star or f) all of the above?

Pencils down, students: The multitalented Gallic teacher-turned-author-turned-screenwriter-turned-actor is indeed all of the above.

Begaudeau pulled off an unprecedented hat trick in Laurent Cantet's In Competition title "The Class" (Entre Les Murs). The film -- based on Begaudeau's novel of the same name -- is not only co-written by the the former teacher, he also plays the film's lead role.

However, he told The Hollywood Reporter, "I'm not the star, I'm just the main character. It's a very democratic, balanced film."

Set during the course of the full school year in a high school in a rough Parisian neighborhood, the drama features Begaudeau as a teacher who pits his classroom ethics against a group of teenagers.

Though the production departed from a complete script -- a collaboration among Begaudeau, Cantet and Cantet's longtime co-writer Robin Campillo -- Begaudeau also improvised, adding his personal touch to his interactions with the real-life students. Begaudeau was able to draw on his own experiences as a teacher for his first role in a feature film to remain comfortable in front of the camera.

"Teaching forces you to get used to public speaking and talking to people. I'm also a writer so I've read my books out loud on many occasions. All of that contributes," he said.

The ubiquitous Begaudeau has published four novels, a fictionalized biography, an essay collection and is a regular contributor to French TV programs and print publications such as Le Monde and Playboy. But while he may be used to wearing many hats, Begaudeau has yet to add film director to his resume, entrusting the big-screen version of his book to Cantet, who added a narrative and more fictional plot line to the original book.

"I didn't have the impression that I gave up my book per se, but instead that I continued it," Begaudeau said. "It wasn't hard to trust Laurent with the book because I have a lot of admiration for his work and I felt very close to him. We really worked together -- brainstormed together, wrote together -- he really listened and didn't try to impose his views at all."

Despite the ease with which Begaudeau embraced his role, the untested actor says he was initially surprised when Cantet offered him the leading role. "I think for Laurent, it was clear from the beginning that I'd play the teacher, but we didn't talk about it at first," he said. "It came about tacitly. As soon as we decided that the students would play themselves, it became clear to him that I should play myself too, and I agreed."

So what's Begaudeau's secret to doing everything? "I'm a hard worker," he said. "I organize my time. It's not very complicated in fact. I look at it all as chance."