A quarter to two before Jesus Christ, released on October 6, 1982, was a real cinematic event at the time. With 4.6 million spectators in theaters, the comedy is the third biggest success of the year behind ET de Spielberg and L’As des as by Gérard Oury.
The film also holds the record for television broadcasts with around 30 appearances. Since 2008, it has seen 17 reruns. Note also that the work was one of the three most expensive French films of the year 82. This super-production had to hire a triple French, Italian and Tunisian technical team to carry out the project. The feature film required a year and a half of preparation and fifteen weeks of shooting.
The latter has not been easy for the director Jean Yanne. Quarter to two hours before Jesus Christ is his 6th feature film and his shoots are always done in a relaxed atmosphere, even schoolboy, indicates the journalist Bertrand Dicale in his book, Jean Yanne against the grain. However, the artist will have a lot to do with the personality of Coluche, the comic being deemed unmanageable.
The comedian has trouble getting out of his stage character on his shoots and the latter’s fanciful attitude strongly annoys Jean Yanne. The director tries to come to terms with this zany side but does not like to multiply the takes or to play it authoritarian to ensure order. Yanne does her best to manage the comedy but the gap with her partners is felt. Coluche, facetious, does not hesitate to add fuel to the fire, joking in particular on the generational gap between him and his director.
The attitude of the actor throws a deleterious atmosphere on the set, Coluche also struggling at that time against an addiction to alcohol and drugs, which does not help matters. The actor is also very fragile psychologically due to his separation from his wife. During the shootings in Tunisia, the production rented him a house in which all excesses are allowed. With his friends, Coluche gives it to their heart’s content, which is not to the taste of Jean Yanne, who loathes the indiscipline of his actor.
Great tension reigns between them throughout the filming, only appeased by the good relationship between Coluche and Michel Serrault. The latter will play a little the role of mediator between the filmmaker and the comedian, allowing the two men not to come to blows. Several times, they have indeed failed to fight so much they could not stand each other. Finally, the film will know the success that we know and will consecrate the humorist as the worthy heir of Louis de Funès in the French comedy, alongside Pierre Richard.
Source: Jean Yanne against the grain by Bertrand Dicale, First Document.