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From the projects to the red carpet

Comedic actor Omar Sy grew up in a tough neighborhood in France. Today he’s the star of the biggest French film of all time

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Now that The Intouchables has made $339.5 million overseas, Omar Sy is finally letting himself think big. ”Growing up where I did, I never allowed myself to dream of being successful,” says the actor, 34, who was raised in a housing project outside Paris like the one his character (a caretaker for a paralyzed aristocrat) inhabits in the film. In February, Sy — who names Chris Rock and Denzel Washington as inspirations — became the first black performer to win France’s César award for Best Actor. A Hollywood career might be next, but first Sy wants to polish up his schoolboy English. ”If I had known I’d be coming to L.A. someday,” he says with a laugh, ”I would’ve paid more attention in class.”