How was the film couple formed for “César and Rosalie” imagined? On the occasion of the film’s broadcast on C8, also available on Netflix, a look back at the genesis of the casting of this film, carried by Yves Montand, Romy Schneider and Samy Frey.
In 1972, Claude Sautet made a film that has become cult, in particular thanks to his legendary couple, Yves Montand as César, and Romy Schneider as Rosalie, completed by Samy Frey. César and Rosalie, or the story of a love triangle, that the filmmaker imagined with his faithful scriptwriter accomplice, Jean-Loup Dabadie, with the collaboration of Claude Néron.
On the occasion of the film’s broadcast this evening on C8, and its arrival in the catalog of the Netflix streaming platform, a look back at the formation of an iconic Montand-Schneider couple, of which César and Rosalie will remain the only collaboration in the ‘screen.
Before being offered to Yves Montand and Romy Schneider, the project had been imagined with other actors … 10 years earlier! The film could have been precisely the one that Sautet would have directed after Class all risks (1960). The main role was then offered to Vittorio Gassman, and Jean-Paul Belmondo had also been imagined in the role finally played by Sami Frey. Gassman refuses the project and finally this first version of the screenplay, written in 1963, will not come to fruition for several years, and the intervention of Claude Sautet’s agent -Jean-Louis Livi- who buys the project from Michèle de Broca who owns the rights.
I am not Rosalie. But I’ll be your Rosalie.
The idea of this film resurfaces with a different cast: Catherine Deneuve and Yves Montand. In “Conversation with Claude Sautet”, by Michel Boujut, we learn that Catherine Deneuve was “very enthusiastic”. But time flies and his contract is still not signed … “Panicked, I telegraphed to Romy who was filming the Trotsky Assassination in Mexico with Losey. She agreed after reading a twenty-page summary. We met later in Italy“, remembers Claude Sautet in this interview book. He says that Romy Schneider would have told him straight away:”I am not Rosalie. But I’ll be your Rosalie.“The filmmaker also indicates that the actress was perfectly aware that she was not the first choice for this casting …
Claude Sautet is full of praise for what Romy Schneider has precisely brought to the character, giving him a certain depth: “She liked the scenes where she found herself lost. She didn’t have this modesty. It must be said that then Romy’s relationship with her husband, Harry Mayen, had deteriorated. She was quite lost in her private life. His deep anguish rubbed off on Rosalie and made her thicker.“
Yves Montand and a role that sticks to the skin
The choice of Yves Montand is obvious to the director. But the actor would have first expressed some reservations before accepting … “He was afraid at first. Afraid of playing a “cuckold”. Besides, Gassman had had the same reaction: “Cornuto? Impossibile! ” It was Simone Signoret who finally convinced him. She and Romy loved each other very much“, he confides to Michel Boujut. Sautet’s esteem and respect towards Montand are reciprocal:”I will always have great affection for Claude Sautet. It really pierced me up to date, unbeknownst to me, so to speak. He understood very well that what could be considered in me as weakness, or a lack of knowledge, was only a form of mala-dresse and naivety which is of course much less today, since he revealed it to me. “
And to add: “He knew how to use what he needed for his character: both great health and great naivety. (…) There are roles, like that, which free you and enrich you“, he explains in Yves Montand by Alain Rémond (Veyrier, 1980). This role will stick to his skin thereafter.” Having discovered a part of himself in César, he later tended to make it a process. And therefore, to boast a little, “says Claude Sautet bluntly.
If Montand and Sautet appreciate each other, the filming of César and Rosalie will not be easy. There are tensions, and the climate is not always good for actors. “I had to constantly intervene, alternating hot and cold to heal the wounds of self-esteem and susceptibility. It was fourteen weeks of tension and probably the shoot during which I was most in a bad mood! “, summarizes Claude Sautet. Yves Montand’s behavior would have tended to irritate his partners. These tensions are not reflected in the film, revealing a mythical couple of French cinema. To (re) discover this evening on C8.
These romantic comedies could have had … another couple!