The real-life story behind the movie “The Intouchables”

We frequently concentrate on our shortcomings and the barriers that keep us from achieving our ideal selves, overlooking the qualities and possessions we already have. This focus can cause us to put off our happiness as we dwell on the disappointment of not meeting our goals. However, if we are willing to question our beliefs and open our hearts, we can meet people from any race, social status, or age who help us see our strengths and the value we inherently bring to the world.

Supporting this idea, Bright Side shares the stories of Count Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Yasmin Sellou. These two men, who once felt confined by their circumstances, overcame societal boundaries through their friendship, changing their lives and inspiring the movie that followed.

Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, a French count and prosperous hotel owner, was born into privilege as the son of a duke. With a refined education and successful career, including a managerial stint at Moët & Chandon, he led a life many envied. However, his world turned upside down in 1993 when a paragliding accident left him tetraplegic, sinking him into deep depression, further worsened by his wife’s cancer battle. Confronted with his new dependence, Philippe fell into despair, even attempting suicide. He found this loss of control over his life, which he had always maintained, to be “unbearable.”

On the other hand, Abdel Yasmin Sellou’s background hardly positioned him as an exemplary employee.

Abdel grew up in a humble family with eight siblings, a background that contributed to his impulsive behavior and volatile temperament. At ten, he moved to Paris to live with relatives, and by sixteen, he was expelled from school for theft. His pattern of delinquency continued, leading to his first jail term at eighteen for stealing from tourists. Despite these challenges, Abdel had a charismatic charm that made him likable from the first meeting.

While serving an eighteen-month prison sentence, Abdel was offered a chance to reduce his term to ten months by participating in mechanics courses aimed at societal reintegration. Disinterested in mechanics, he pursued immediate employment to avoid returning to prison. His application for a caretaker role for a wealthy, tetraplegic aristocrat and his ailing wife became a turning point that significantly altered the course of his life.

Knowing Philippe’s wealthy and sophisticated background, it might seem surprising that he would choose to hire someone like Abdel. Yet, Philippe, with his extensive experience in conducting job interviews, saw past Abdel’s rough edges to the potential within. “He didn’t pity me. He was irreverent, cheeky, and had a wicked sense of humor. Suddenly, life became enjoyable again,” Philippe explained, justifying his choice to hire Abdel.
Philippe and Abdel frequently indulged in playful antics, like tricking police officers into thinking they were rushing to the hospital. Philippe reflected, “I needed a wake-up call. Pity is useless. It’s what people give when they’re too scared to genuinely care.” He saw Abdel as the perfect companion he needed, saying, “I don’t care about his past. I needed him. And from there, he became a friend.”
Abdel introduced humor, spontaneity, and humility into Philippe’s life, offering a refreshing contrast to Philippe’s polished ways. Over time, this helped Philippe recover from his depression. “He treated me exactly as I needed,” Philippe acknowledged. Abdel’s unorthodox approach to caregiving allowed Philippe to experience thrilling moments, like jogging and playfully breaking speed limits, which enlivened his everyday life.
Their friendship, born from dire circumstances, became a transformative bond that touched many lives. Abdel reflected on how they met: “We were two lost souls seeking an escape; the grieving, wealthy man mourning his wife’s death, and the ex-convict determined to challenge the world. Two outcasts finding comfort in each other.” After ten years of mutual growth and companionship, their journeys forked during a trip to Morocco in 2003, where each found love. Philippe explained, “Abdel and I went our separate ways when we found our soulmates,” emphasizing that their parting was free from sadness or struggle.
Philippe, after marrying a Muslim woman, moved to her home country to start a family. At the same time, Abdel also married and now runs a poultry farm in Algeria, enjoying a stable life with his three children, who affectionately call Philippe their uncle. “Before, settling down was not something I considered,” Abdel confessed. “I was only into short-lived relationships. Now, I’m happy and focused on this new chapter in my life.” Following their impactful friendship, both men wrote books sharing their unique stories: Abdel authored “You Changed My Life,” and Philippe penned “Untouchable,” which lent its name to the celebrated French film about their remarkable connection.
Today, Abdel often travels to Morocco to catch up with his friend Philippe. When they can’t meet in person, Philippe makes a point to call and catch up on Abdel’s latest adventures and humorous exploits. Their friendship demonstrates how people from distinctly different backgrounds can overcome substantial challenges together. Like adversity, true friendship and affection do not differentiate based on social status. Even in our toughest times, there is usually someone encouraging us to step out of our comfort zones and realize our potential.
What aspect of this story struck a chord with you the most? We’d love to hear if you’ve had a friendship that enriched your life, or if you know of any other stories as uplifting and inspiring as that of Philippe and Abdel. Share your experiences with us!

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