In Le Jouet, a billionaire and his young son stroll through a department store to choose a gift. The choice of the child falls on a journalist, François Perrin, who will be made available to him and become his toy … On the occasion of the broadcast of this comedy released in 1976, back on his (relative) failure commercial and how the title role, Pierre Richard, was affected.
Successful screenwriter, Francis Veber launches for the first time in directing with Le Jouet. He chooses to entrust the main role to Pierre Richard, the interpreter of the two films of Yves Robert which he wrote: The Large blond with a black shoe (1972) and its continuation (1974). During filming, the main challenge for the director is to ensure that the actor evolves in his acting:
“We had a hard time at first, Pierre Richard and me. He was playing funny. He was running with his knees raised and stammering his lines to win in humor. It was the opposite of what I wanted. (…) He understood but he struggled to get rid of his tics. He managed to do it through hard work and I was fortunate to see him go from the skin of a mime, a dancer and a clown, to that of ‘a comedian.”*
In the end, the shooting is going well. If The Toy remains a comedy, the feature film goes further by showing that no toy can replace a father’s love for his son. A situation that clearly echoes Pierre Richard’s life since he suffered from his father’s lack of affection. Besides, the film constitutes a relevant satire on power and money.
The tall blond, Jerry Lewis, his cinema … Pierre Richard confides in his career
Le Jouet was released in 1976, during the Christmas holidays. Several productions scheduled at the same time are deprogrammed for fear of competition with the comedy by Francis Veber. In the end, it made 1.25 million admissions, a very disappointing score. For Pierre Richard, this failure is hard to swallow and the fear of having to remain confined to roles like that of the tall blond is felt.
Seven months later, the actor loses his father. The night before the funeral, he remains alone in front of the body of the deceased, crying and insulting him, showing how he regrets not having received his recognition. The relative failure of the Toy is all the more strong for Pierre Richard as it is a film whose story is close to what he experienced during his childhood. **
Francis Veber is also affected by this failure (especially in relation to the bad reviews). The filmmaker will wait four years before coming back behind the camera (it will be La Cage aux folles and its 5.4 million admissions). The rest of his career will be punctuated by monumental boxes, such as La Chèvre (with Pierre Richard) and Dîner de cons, having respectively made 7 and 9.2 million entries in France.
* “Let it stay between us” by Francis Veber, Robert Laffont
**“One day a destiny, Pierre Richard, the misunderstood”
“I know nothing but I will say everything” by Pierre Richard with Jérémie Imbert, Flammarion