Cyrano: the classic revisited by Peter Dinklage and Joe Wright – Actus Ciné

Peter Dinklage and director Joe Wright come back with us on “Cyrano”, which revisits Edmond Rostand’s classic in songs for a flamboyant film.

We discovered it with Pride and prejudice. Then he attacked Anna Karenina. Today, Joe Wright revisits another great literary classic with Cyrano. And he does it in songs. Because it adapts less the original work of Edmond Rostand than its scenic and musical version signed Erica Schmidt and orchestrated by the group The National.

Interpreter of the character on stage, Peter Dinklage (companion of Erica Schmidt) resumes his role in the cinema, just like his partner Haley Bennett. And the actor, famous for his role as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, returns with us to this adventure on video, while Joe Wright talks about his foray into the musical which surprised us no more than that.

AlloCiné: When you see “Anna Karénine” or scenes from “Pan” and “The Dark Hours”, it’s not that surprising to see you directing a musical. Since when did you want it?
Joe Wright : I’ve been wanting to do one for a while, and maybe that’s why you saw a natural progression. I think it goes back to when I saw Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark. I said to myself that it was really interesting, that one day I would like to try to stage a musical and find a different way of creating something different in this register.

Would you say that your previous films were, in a way, musicals without songs?
In effect. Anna Karenina was conceived as a ballet, and music has always played an important role in the process of my films. I often ask the composer to write the music before filming begins, and then I play it on set so the actors can follow his rhythm. So it’s been a long time since my transition to the musical is built.

Music has always occupied an important place in the process of my films

What did you like about this approach to “Cyrano”, to make you want to take the plunge with this adaptation?
I have always loved history. Since the film with Gérard Depardieu I think, which I saw when I was a fat and pimply teenager: I had recognized myself and felt heard in this film, which is a tribute to the original text by Edmond Rostand, he who managed to talk about the human condition.

I always felt close to this story but I had never found a reason to adapt it, until I saw Peter Dinklage play the role of Cyrano. The idea of ​​having someone like him play the character without that big nose made the story even more authentic and personal, and gave it an instantaneity that I had never seen before.

I like the way you use sets and space in your films. Does this imply building the sets in question very early on, so that you can then determine how you will evolve within them?
It’s an interesting question. I work closely with my artistic director Sarah Greenwood. It’s been now – oh my! – 25 years of working together. One of the first things we do is start scouting places, so we can feel space and location. And then I design the scenes. Even when I’m writing a script, I design them to fit the locations. They are specific to a precise site, because I imagine them in reaction. A place can give me ideas.

Let me give you an example with the balcony scene: usually we have Roxane upstairs and Cyrano and Christian below. But when I discovered the yard we were going to shoot in, I realized that Peter and Kelvin [Harrison Jr.] could stand on either side of a wall with an arch in the middle and see it from further away. So that opened the door to another, very different way of conceiving the scene. I could have Peter up close and Haley [Bennett] in the background using a diopter [outil optique qui ajuste le viseur de la caméra en fonction des yeux, ndlr]. This exciting revelation for me changed everything in my approach.

“Cyrano” was shot during the pandemic: did you have to deal with a lot of changes, and even review the way you directed certain scenes?
Absolutely ! There were big logistical challenges to overcome to overcome the problems related to Covid. One of the solutions, in the case of the theater scene – initially designed to take place in a closed theater – was to build the set outdoors, in a style closer to that of 18th century theatres. Thus the air circulated continuously.

My mother, who is a props and puppeteer, made 160 leather masks in the style of Commedia dell’arte, covering the mouth and having long Cyrano noses, so as to ensure that the faces of the extras remained covered to protect us at the same time.

Cyrano: the classic revisited by peter dinklage and joe wright - actus ciné
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Joe Wright on the set of “Cyrano”

Is it more difficult to stage a musical of which there was only one version, like this one?
No, it’s even more liberating because you have no point of comparison. If I had to do a new Cabaret or West Side Story, I would always have the other films in mind. So I was able to innovate with this film and it was stimulating because there was a certain amount of freedom in all of this.

What changes did you make compared to the stage version?
When you are on stage, you are restricted. So we needed to get out of that and make the film still move in space. But I also wanted to not lose the intimacy of the story, because it, for me, is about the importance and the need for human connection, and the inability to connect. It’s a film about love and connection, so it needed an intimate style, and that’s what we tried to do.

I don’t know if we can speak of a revival of the musical, but this year [l’interview a été réalisée fin 2021, ndlr] we had “Annette”, “West Side Story”, “Where we come from” or “Tick, Tick… ​​Boom!”, Jacques Audiard is currently preparing one…
Really ?

Yes. He talked about a musical that will shoot in Latin America.
wow! I can not wait to see it. I love his work, he’s one of my heroes.

The best musicals are the ones that allow you to escape, while reflecting very clearly on us

How do you explain this resurgence of musical comedy in cinema?

Maybe people are looking to escape. Because the best musicals are those that allow us this escape, while reflecting very clearly on us, our psyche, our spiritual position.

The musical seems to be the purest and most cinematic genre, but also the most complicated for a director to direct. You confirm it now that you have made one?
All movies are hard to make. It’s complicated because some work and some don’t. I’m happy to say that I feel this one works, but finding the right tone for a musical is tricky.

Interview by Maximilien Pierrette in Paris on December 8, 2021 – Editing: ??

“Cyrano” has been in theaters since March 30:

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