He has already participated in this The smartest person even before he hit the big time with D’Ardennes and Zillion. Film is his passion and profession, ‘the only thing I can do’. Charlotte Timmers and football are the other great loves in the life of Robin Pront (37). “He’s smarter than he sometimes pretends.”
The look of his co-star Nathalie Meskens resembled that of someone listening to a piece of chalk pressed against a blackboard. Into the photo round The smartest person in the world where Robin Pront had to sing Flemish Eurovision entries, will not be remembered for the man’s consistency of tone, but for the conviction with which he did it. “Was it the first time you sang?” asked presenter Erik Van Looy. “It seemed that way,” Pront admitted humbly.
Robin Pront is not a man of many talents, he believes. “I can only really do one thing, and that’s the job I’m doing now,” he said in the studios of The smartest person. “I’m completely unsuitable for the rest.” But he does a great job at that job – making films. Zillion (2022) attracted more than 700,000 Belgians to the cinema – the kind of figures usually reserved for comedies about the misunderstandings of a café crew, and good for eighth place in the list of most visited Belgian films.
His debut D’Ardennes (2015), about two criminal brothers who try in vain to get a grip on life and love in the wilderness of southern Belgium, was allowed to open Film Fest Ghent again. “That boy breathes film talent,” said then Film Fest Gent director Patrick Duynslaegher in this newspaper. Ten months later D’Ardennes eight Ensors, including Best Film. Did in February this year Zillion four more Ensors.
Pront’s films are a bit like their director, who grew up as the son of a Dutch truck driver and an Antwerp mother: loud and straightforward, enthusiastic, idiosyncratic and with a dark edge. During the day The smartest person Van Looy was happy to tempt him with anecdotes about fights that sometimes left him with a broken wrist. “But that was all earlier, in my late teens, when I was in full search,” he explained in an interview with Humo. “Maybe it was my way of dealing with my doubts, I don’t know.”
After high school, where Pront doubled for a year, he went to Sint-Lukas, where director, screenwriter and columnist Marc Didden taught him screenwriting. He was a bit of an outsider, Didden remembers. “Many students had parents who worked in the media or were Germanists. He gave more of the impression of an Antwerp street football player. He also got bored quickly: he wanted to make films, but first he had to spend four more years at school.”
This meant that he did not always score well in theoretical subjects. “During deliberations I sometimes had to drag him through the fire because his way was not very appreciated by some theory teachers,” says Didden. “There were a number of gray coats who only looked at the numbers and didn’t see it in Robin.”
Didden saw it. “You could see in everything he made that he had talent and imagination in abundance. But he also had a timid side. He wanted to have Erik Van Looy read the script for his final work, but did not really dare to ask. Then I put it in Erik’s mailbox.
“He’s actually still a bit shy. I recently went out for dinner with him, and he’s not one to shout at the restaurant.”
The final work in question was called Injury Time (2010), a short film that he financed with the prize money he collected at the Leuven Short Film Festival with his first work, Plan B (2008). Not long afterwards, as an unknown Flemish person, he was in for the first time The smartest person. In 2012, Pront lasted two episodes – this year he is already doing better. “He is smarter than he sometimes pretends,” says Didden.
“I have a small suspicion that he works for State Security,” says his good friend Pedro Elias. “Because he always knows everything first. He is extremely knowledgeable.” Elias met the recently graduated Pront when they worked with Philippe Geubels on a TV series at production house Woestijnvis. “A very strange little man, but intelligent. Fairly direct too,” Elias remembers. A few months later, Pront was told he wasn’t what they were looking for. “But we became friends very quickly and continued to see each other, even though he was no longer with Woestijnvis.”
He then threw himself into action with actor Jeroen Perceval D’Ardennesin which Perceval, as in Injury Time, would shine together with Matthias Schoenaerts. Ultimately, the latter had to be cancelled: Kevin Janssens filled the gap. “I used to be often pushed into a box. As a result, I did not get the chance to show my skills,” Janssens said in the film magazine at the time Vertigo. “I’m glad Robin has changed that.”
According to Pront himself, he is also unapologetically himself on set, he added Humo out. “I’m sure some people think I’m rude, maybe even arrogant. Actors are sometimes shocked by my rudeness, but I prefer to call it directness. I never intend to be arrogant or rude, but kid gloves are indeed not for me.” (laughs)
“I certainly don’t find him arrogant,” says actor Jonas Vermeulen, who plays the leading role Zillion played. “It may sound ‘bobby’ when he says certain things, but he actually isn’t. You just get to hear what he thinks. You never have to doubt what he says. I thought that was great. And he’s always like that, even outside the set. You know very well what Robin means to you: he never has a double agenda. He is super sweet and very committed to everyone, even though he sometimes sounds a bit brutal and clumsy.”
Yet not every actor responds equally well to this, Pront admitted Humo. After the success of D’Ardennes he took his chance on the other side of the ocean, where he received a mediocre reception The Silencing (2020) turned, with Game of Thronesactor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in the leading role. “I said in front of the whole crew, ‘The way you’re playing it now, I don’t fucking believe it. No, that wasn’t very smart of me. His reaction was, uh, not so friendly.” (laughs)
The recordings of The Silencing in Canada were the most uncertain period in his life, he also said, and led to a “loud” time in his relationship with actress Charlotte Timmers. “We needed to break up for a while,” Timmers said later Sabato. “It was only when we had distanced ourselves that we saw again that what was there was too beautiful to walk away from.”
Such as the success of Zillionin which Timmers plays the female lead, the bitter aftertaste of The Silencing flushed, Pront announced Oops, a podcast about martial arts that he makes together with Elias, among others, announced that he had become engaged to Timmers. “I honestly think Robin is the nicest man there is,” Timmers had said earlier. “I am also convinced that there is only one Robin. Even if I travel the world, I won’t find someone like that again.”
It marks an incredible farming year in the life of Robin Pront, who not only achieved the unlikely success of Zillion and was able to celebrate his engagement, but also the first title in 66 years of his beloved Royal Antwerp Football Club. Zillionstar Matteo Simoni filmed how Pront and Van Looy fell into each other’s arms when Toby Alderweireld scored the title goal. Pront posted a selfie with Van Looy on Instagram, with the unmistakable caption ‘Most beautiful moment of my life’.
“I don’t know if that is a condition for a close friendship, but there are three passions that we share,” says Elias. “There’s cinema, there’s football, especially Barcelona – we watched a lot of games together, with my father, and we cried when Messi left the club. And there’s mixed martial arts: I’m a little ashamed that I watch men fighting in underwear so often, and he has that too. That podcast about it was really a café idea that we created together with Sam Kerkhofs (CEO of Sporthouse Group, ed.) have come up with. And since Sam has a company that makes podcasts, that was quickly resolved. It’s really nice that you can meet up with your friends at work. Although that podcast doesn’t feel like work at all.”
Pront probably doesn’t see it that way either; After all, the job he does now, the job he excels in, is directing. “Disco and drugs don’t really interest me, so I’m not the target group Zillion”, says Didden. “But nevertheless, the rhythm of that film, the passion you feel, made me go along with it. But somewhere inside him there is another film that is closer to his personality, like his short films. I think we can expect great things from him.”