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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 July, 2003, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Praise for Cantona's big role
Cantona had to put on two stone for filming
Former Manchester United football Eric Cantona has been winning plaudits for his latest film role after piling on the pounds to play an obese detective.

Critics in his native France have been won over by his acting abilities in the film L'Outremangeur (The Over Eater).

Cantona, 37, who has had a handful of acting roles, plays a detective who constantly eats to mask a childhood trauma.

In a twist on the classic Beauty and the Beast fairytale, Cantona's character makes a deal with a beautiful female murderer that she must dine with him for a year if she wants to remain free.

As she spends time with him she realises what is underneath the layers of fat and the relationship also warms his cold exterior.

For the movie, Cantona had to put on two stone as well as wearing a heavily-padded "fat suit" which he said caused him to sweat profusely

Eric Cantona
Cantona played for Manchester United
Although the film itself received mixed reviews, Cantona's performance was praised.

Dominque Borde in Le Figaro wrote: "He gets inside the skin of a deeply lonely man and manages to make him touching, even profoundly moving."

And Le Matin's critique said: "Cantona brings credibilty to this obese character who conceals a big heart behind a monster's fašade.

"It was a daring challenge, but the former sportman finally earns his stripes as an actor."

According to the Independent newspaper, Cantona is not a popular figure with the French media.

But he remains something of a soccer hero figure in the UK, following the success he gained during his time with Manchester United.

He hit headlines with his now infamous "kung-fu" kick launched at a Crystal Palace fan as well as some bizarre encounters with the media, which marked him out as a bit of a part-time philosopher.

Cantona has previously had a small role in the period film Elizabeth and starred in the French comedy drama Les Enfants du Marais.

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