La Reine Margot on France 5: the complex and trying behind the scenes of this period film with Isabelle Adjani – cinema news

In 1994, Patrice Chéreau signed “La Reine Margot”, a baroque and bloody historical fresco broadcast at 8:50 pm on France 5 and whose gestation and filming were epic.

From the Three Musketeers to Queen Margot

It was under the leadership of Claude Berri, director and prolific producer behind some of the greatest French film successes, that La Reine Margot was born. He and Patrice Chéreau, man of the theater and filmmaker with an intimate universe, then already collaborated on L’Homme woundé and Hôtel de France. Enthusiastic about this latest film made with students from the Théâtre des Amandiers in Nanterre and eager to see him tackle a popular project, Berri suggested that Chéreau adapt The three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. But it is Jean Becker who owns the rights to the book. Screenwriter Danièle Thompson then suggests bringing another of her works to the screen: Queen Margot.

Against the backdrop of the religious war that tears up 16th century France, La Reine Margot recounts the arranged marriage between the Catholic Marguerite de Valois, alias Margot (Isabelle Adjani), and the Protestant Henri de Navarre, future Henri IV (Daniel Auteuil). Six days after their union took place the massacre of Saint-Barthélémy, during which 4000 Protestants were killed. It is during this night of horror that Margot meets the Count de la Môle (Vincent Perez), a Protestant nobleman, with whom she will fall passionately in love.

La reine margot on france 5: the complex and trying behind the scenes of this period film with isabelle adjani - cinema news

Luc Roux – Collection Fondation Jérôme Saydoux-Pathé – Pathé Production – France 2 Cinéma – DA Films – RCS Produzione TV SPA – Nef Filmproduktion

A long and complicated gestation

Dumas’s novel is dense: it takes five years of preparation and nine successive versions of the screenplay (including a last one dated April 1993, the day before the shooting) before the film sees the light of day. The Chéreau-Thompson duo think many times that the project is buried. The latter returns to these “Four years of relentless tete-a-tete, the whole world against us, the whole world with us …” during which his sidekick is “Exhausted by his own energy, stunned by too high estimates, too drastic cuts. […] Patrice enthusiastic, then suddenly broken, hands tied, stalked gaze – a drawing by Egon Schiele »*. Their scenario is nourished in particular by reading period documents, such as the Correspondence from Catherine de Medici and The Memoirs of Marguerite de Valois, but also Roman by Henri IV by Heinrich Mann. From Dumas’s book, they decide to focus on the monstrous Valois family to deliver an epic Shakespearean drama.

Chéreau threw himself into the preparation of the film three times. Adjani, for whom the film is written, is desired, declines the role before finally accepting it, convinced by a note of intention written by the director. Berri, him, is monopolized by his own blockbuster, Germinal. With an initial duration of 4h30, La Reine Margot passes to 2h39 and benefits, thanks to a European co-production between France, Italy and Germany, from a budget of 120 million francs (i.e. 18 million euros ), a budget that will be exceeded by 20 million francs.

La reine margot on france 5: the complex and trying behind the scenes of this period film with isabelle adjani - cinema news

Luc Roux – Collection Fondation Jérôme Saydoux-Pathé – Pathé Production – France 2 Cinéma – DA Films – RCS Produzione TV SPA – Nef Filmproduktion

A grueling shoot and an unfinished edit

Filming takes place between France and Portugal over six months. The actors are subject to harsh conditions. “Each day of this filming under permanent tension was like a mountain to be crossed” **, says Dominique Blanc. Vincent Perez spends several nights of filming half-naked, covered in fake blood, and even injures himself with his sword: “We, the actors, we knew we were going to hurt ourselves. Chéreau expected us to go beyond our limits ”**. As for the director, he has an eye for detail: “In Bordeaux, we have redone entire streets: we barely show them, as we would show a street today. It required fifteen days of work for the decoration team, it bored the residents, it was necessary to remove the lampposts, blacken the houses, put earth […] “. ***

Once the shots are completed, a provisional montage is presented at the Cannes Film Festival. It was only under pressure from Miramax, who refused to release the film in the United States as it was because it was too long, that Patrice Chéreau agreed to shorten it by 20 minutes. A rare occurrence, this new version was released in France on December 16, 1994. A new assembly, which we can qualify as director’s cut, is screened as part of Cannes Classics in 2013.

Queen Margot won five Césars, including Best Actress for Adjani, as well as the Jury Prize and the Best Actress Prize for Virna Lisi at Cannes. This is Chéreau’s greatest success with more than two million spectators. However, Claude Berri will not fail to point out: “The film is magnificent, it will make the international reputation of Patrice, but to date there are still at least forty million still to be recovered, which will never be”****.

*Patrice Chéreau, an imaginary museum, ed. South Acts.
**On Arte, “La Reine Margot”, by Patrice Chéreau, monster film, Mathilde Blottière, on telerama.fr
*** Interview with Patrice Chéreau and Danièle Thompson conducted by Serge Toubiana on March 27, 1994.
****Self-portrait, Claude Berri, The Pocket Book.

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