The tenth season of ‘The Smartest Person in the World’ in 2012 was a festive edition. For the occasion, four completely unknown Flemish people were allowed to participate. They were chosen from thousands of submitted applications. Robin Pront, a promising director without name recognition, was one of the lucky ones. After two episodes he was played home. “I have always blamed myself for that – competitive as I am -,” he says today Humo. This time it has to be better.
Men on the edge
Since his participation in 2012, the Antwerp resident, born and raised in Edegem, has released three feature films and the series The Gang of Jan de Lichte out. His first print Dardennen immediately achieved success in 2015. The film became the Oscar entry for our country and won seven Ensors. In the dark drama, Kevin Janssens and Jeroen Perceval play two brothers on the edge of society, with accompanying marginal hairstyles and clothing.
Pront loves anti-heroes, if you can call his characters that. He is fascinated by figures from ‘marginal environments’. “I’ve always had fun with such men, at school or later in a café. I found it liberating that you could have simple conversations with them, without stress. That was never about ‘What do you want to do with your life?’, but about ‘Have you seen that chick?’ or ‘Did you see that match?’”
He already showed this fascination as a student in his short films. Plan B (2008) is about two Antwerp drug dealers who see Patje Goots as their great hero, Injury Time (2010) about hooligans from den Antwerp. We don’t need to say that Pront himself is a fanatic supporter of The Great Old. Matthias Schoenaerts, who plays the leading role in Injury Time, supports arch-rival Beerschot. Everything for art, the actor must have thought at the time.
Robin himself occasionally found himself on the edge. He tells Erik Van Looy that he used to be a fighter in Edegem. He sat ‘on the benches’ with the tough guys and joined in when they picked fights. He still has fits of anger sometimes, but less so. “If someone is unfriendly to Charlotte, for example: then I feel that The Beast is certainly opening one eyelid,” he said. Humo.
Arrogant Antwerp resident
In 2022, his love for questionable figures will not only earn Pront a lot of praise, but also criticism. In Zillion, an absolute blockbuster in Flemish cinema, Dennis Black Magic is given too central and glorifying a role according to critics. Matteo Simoni’s comic portrayal of the porn king would be inappropriate. Burkas was convicted several times for rape and sexual assault. Pront calls it “very small Flemish” that people are looking for something to cut down on, instead of being happy that his film attracted so many people to the cinema. “I notice that I appreciate the success of it Zillion use as a kind of barrier against criticism. ‘What have you actually done?’”
An arrogant answer. Proost is aware that he comes across that way at times. Also on set. In The smartest person he tells a story about his first time filming with Barbara Sarafian. When he gives her feedback after a first take and walks away, he hears the actress say: “He shouldn’t try that twice.” “Some people undoubtedly find me rude, perhaps even arrogant,” Pront admits Humo. “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 certainly not for me. (laughs)” Pront puts that directness on his Dutch side. His father is from Amsterdam. If he doesn’t like something, he says so. You always know what you can get from the director.
A few years ago he antagonized a world star with his approach. Between Dardennen and Zillion Pront heads to Canada for his first Hollywood film The Silencing to direct. The leading role is played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, aka Jaime Lannister Game of Thrones. “I said to him in front of the whole crew, ‘The way you’re playing it now, I don’t fucking believe it.’”, says the Antwerp resident. A bad idea. The actor’s reaction is anything but friendly, according to Pront.
Robin remembers the filming of the film as the toughest period of his life. He spends four months in cold Canada, completely isolated. His relationship with Charlotte deteriorates after eight years. The film is criticized by critics, but scores in American cinemas. For us, it immediately appears on streaming services, especially due to the corona crisis. Fortunately, by then Pront is completely absorbed by it Zillion. It is the project he has been dreaming of for years and which will redeem his status as a top director.
Today Pront is happy again with actress Charlotte Timmers. The break at the time of The Silencing quickly made them realize that what they had was too good to throw away. At the beginning of this year they announced that they were engaged. It is not known when the two will get married, although it will certainly not be between June 14 and July 14, 2024. Then the European Football Championship will be played. “I don’t want a TV screen at my wedding party, that’s for sure,” says a determined Timmers. “Be sure that at such a moment Robin prefers that TV screen to everything that is happening around him. Even if he were directing Leonardo DiCaprio, he would still secretly watch the match.”
Robin met the handsome Limburg woman at a café in his city. She was 23 years old and no longer together with Matteo Simoni, who was also present. He played matchmaker at the time. After Charlotte left for home, he sent her a message from Robin’s phone. “When I reread that text message now, I know: of course Robin could never have composed such a romantic message: ‘Hey dear Charlotte, I would like to invite you for a drink together. Would you like that?’, or something like that.”
Charlotte and Robin agree: he’s a bit of a weirdo. “But in the best possible way,” she says. “In the way that smart, talented people can be weird sometimes.” Smart: the word has fallen. Whether Robin Pront is also the smartest will become clear in the coming weeks.