A new investigation by commissioner Maigret has been released in cinemas, carried by Gérard Depardieu and directed by Patrice Leconte. Meeting with the filmmaker, who signs with this thriller his thirtieth production for the big screen.
Maigret was released in cinemas on Wednesday, with Gérard Depardieu under the hat of the famous investigator created by Georges Simenon. Adapted countless times on screen, the character is presented this time by Patrice Leconte, director of Les Bronzés and La Fille sur le Pont.
AlloCiné was able to have the fascinating filmmaker on the microphone to discuss his work with one of the most famous French actors around a literary hero who is no less famous.
AlloCiné: You had already adapted a novel by Georges Simenon for the screen, Monsieur Hire, which was a definite critical success. What made you come back to this author and to Maigret in particular?
Patrice Leconte: (…) Simenon has never been far from me. It was Jérôme Tonnerre with whom I wrote this project, who told me “Maigret, there hasn’t been an adaptation for a long time”. So we weren’t trying to be smart enough to say to ourselves “here, we’re going to do our Maigret”, it was a desire to rub shoulders with this character that is so emblematic, to propose without arrogance our vision of the character, as we saw, that we felt it, that was the idea.
Something quite rare, you frame your films yourself. How does it feel to look at the camera and see Gérard Depardieu, whom you were directing for the first time?
Well that is shocking. It’s always overwhelming to film actors when they have talent. They give you this stuff… Depardieu, I often had tears in my eyes to see what he gave me, how he abandoned himself to the camera with discretion, restraint, emotion.
I am not far from thinking that the fact of framing oneself induces this, this confidence that the actors have in the one who is behind the camera, in the process of making the film. It’s like we’re alone, even if there are 50 people around (laughs). There is a real intimacy, which is conducive to confidences of actors.
There is a whole myth around Depardieu: does he allow himself to be led? Did he offer you things?
Honestly, I didn’t need to direct him much. Firstly because it’s not in my nature to take actors aside and explain the character’s childhood to them, I’ve never done that and it doesn’t really interest me. As for the actors, sometimes that encumbers them more than anything else. With Gérard, there was something very immediate, we knew we were on a common wavelength.
We didn’t need to tell each other much, because he’s a man who has a sense of play, rhythm, and the stage. We tested things, of course, I was going to find him and I said to him “hey, do one a bit like that”, but in 2-3 takes it was done. I like this immediate side, we are in it right away.
In his costume, and with the build of Depardieu, we have a Maigret almost in armour, with this great coat that covers him entirely, like in the novels. On the other hand, you have chosen to abandon the pipe, which is also emblematic of the character. Why ?
In all of Maigret’s novels, he smokes a pipe. Simenon, who was also a pipe smoker, never deprived Maigret of his pipe, but I was bored with this accessory. I found it heavy to bear, so when Jérôme Tonnerre and I came up with this idea of the doctor telling Maigret that he should quit smoking, I was thrilled because it’s such a simple idea! And it was to avoid the cliché of the agreed trilogy: hat-coat-pipe…
It’s also a pretty dated utensil.
Ah, it’s true that smoking a pipe these days… Pipe makers must toast because who smokes a pipe today?
Facing Depardieu, there is among others Jade Labeste, how did she impose herself on you for the role of Betty?
Personally, I don’t do screen tests, I prefer to meet people, chat with them, feel them. So I got help, because I don’t know young actresses. I go to the theater and the cinema a lot, but [ma directrice de casting] Tatiana Vialle made me meet 5 or 6 girls coming out of the Conservatoire. And the meeting with Jade went very well.
Apart from Les Bronzés, you have never followed up on any of your films. Maigret lends itself well to the saga, it has been adapted a lot in series, do you plan to shoot a second adventure of the commissioner?
Never. There will never be a number two, there will never be “Maigret is skiing” or anything, it would be absurd, it would mean that we would enter into a kind of routine, of reserving the same soup in the same tureen, and then what could we add to what we have done? Sorry, that sounds pretentious, but I have nothing more to tell you about Maigret.