Mr. Valois, 33, is of a generation that grew up with AIDS awareness and some forms of treatment, though he remembered clearly being a boy in Lyon when Act Up and Benetton, as a form of political performance as well as protest, unfurled an enormous pink condom over the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde in Paris on Dec. 1 — World AIDS Day — in 1993.
“For me as a kid, it was all spectacle,” he said, looking out over Place de l’Opéra, where an Act Up die-in once took place. In researching the role and speaking with Mr. Campillo, he said: “I realized it was a real cause. They were dying and putting all their strength in that struggle.”
Mr. Valois had expected at most a modest hit among a certain niche crowd in Paris. Instead, the film will open in France in August and has been picked up for distribution in the United States, Britain, Canada, Brazil and Japan.
Mr. Valois now finds himself in the unusual position — unusual, at least, for a masseur who long since gave up the screen — of having an agent fielding calls and offers. He is, at least, friendly with many in Paris’s fashion circles (he was once a model, appearing on runways for Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier and Dolce & Gabbana) and can call upon his friend Anthony Vaccarello, the creative director of Saint Laurent, to lend an outfit when the occasion demands, as it increasingly does.
After shooting the film last year, he returned to the Montorgueil area, his sophrology and his clients. (They all went on hiatus during filming, he said, and they all returned when he came back.) His practice “helped me to not have a baby blues after the shooting,” he said. “Starting something real and simple. Not having assistants, and someone who comes to your house in the morning and drives you, and hair and makeup … a real life.”
That said, scripts have been arriving at his door. One is “very interesting,” he said, “and I just received a script yesterday that was very interesting, too.”
He was not sure, he said, if he would return to acting. “I’m very happy with my other activities,” he said. “It helps me a lot to be — how do you say it in English? — to be centered.”