The Visitors on TF1: the film almost never saw the light of day – Actus Ciné

While writing Les Visiteurs, Christian Clavier and Jean-Marie Poiré came up against the reluctance of producers in the face of some of their demands, which could have been detrimental to the film, to the point that it never saw the light of day.

“He speaks a sabir, half Latin, half old French”, analyzes the internal Beauvin played by Didier Bénureau when he is for the first time confronted with Godefroy de Montmirail, straight from the time of Louis VI le Gros and landed in 1992 in Les Visiteurs. However, this language, partly invented for the film, almost did not see the light of day, like the rest of the film as we know it.

When designing the project and especially financing it, the duo of screenwriters Christian Clavier / Jean-Marie Poiré. comes up against a major obstacle: the producer Alain Terzian has enormous reluctance to give his approval to this now key element of the film.

“The fact that [les personnages] could speak in old French was very, very scary to Terzian”says Christian Clavier in the rich documentary Visitors revisited. Paraphrasing the producer’s words, he says:

How do you expect young people from the suburbs to go see a film expressed in that language? The Middle Ages is the most expensive, it’s not the funniest thing, it’s a language that won’t be understood, remove all that, it will be much more simple to make the movie.

“We had to fight a lot with Christian to impose that, that it be in old French”confirms Jean-Marie Poiré. “And it’s really an old French that exists, I found with great difficulty (…) a dictionary for academics and I spent a few hours looking for words that sounded good, such as suppleness, la crap and that we can understand. (…) I think it spoke a lot to people and it amused the children a lot”.

The visitors on tf1: the film almost never saw the light of day - actus ciné
Gaumont

Godefroy and Jacquouille “wade” in the toilets

When the film is released, the latter will indeed exchange the lines of the Visitors in the playground, contributing to the popularity of the film and its record admissions. Except that Terzian not only wants to cut Old French, but also all the scenes taking place in the Middle Ages, which for Poiré is absurd:

“If you start with two actors in suits walking down a road (…), everyone will say ‘well, it’s two extras from a TV show who left with their costumes’. It’s pretty cute.”

“Alain Terzian is a very likeable and very funny man, whom I like very much”, outbids Poiré, “but he’s like all producers. He’s having fun [davantage] with a scene of two people talking in a room than with a scene with 5000 extras, a boat crossing the quay or a plane crashing”he underlines with humor, before continuing:

The visitors on tf1: the film almost never saw the light of day - actus ciné
Gaumont

The Middle Ages of Visitors: too expensive?

“I’ve always heard the producers say ‘it’s not so funny, that thing’. So that we never bother you for a scene that is too long which would take place in a restaurant and which does not cost much to shoot .”

Christian Clavier, still in the documentary Les Visiteurs revisités, points out that cutting the medieval part of the film would not have made sense and would even have harmed the film:

This is where you realize that a financier can be completely against the ideas of the artists, because if you had done that, the film no longer held water.

“So we had three to four months of a very complicated discussion until Gaumont took the decision and trusted us, starting with a larger budget”relates the comic actor. “Because who says Middle Ages says costumes, horses, exteriors and it’s much more expensive, so that we can make the film as it was thought by us”.

The visitors on tf1: the film almost never saw the light of day - actus ciné
Gaumont

Jacquouille and her famous “Okayyyyyyy!”

It must be recognized that their vision was the right one, since Les Visiteurs brought together 13.78 million French people in cinemas when it was released, far ahead of the other successes of the year such as Aladdin (2nd, with 7.3 million tickets), Jurassic Park, Germinal and The Fugitive.

Two sequels were created, in 1997 The Visitors 2: The Corridors of Time, then in 2016, The Visitors – The Revolution. An American remake of sad memory was also released, The Visitors in America, co-written by John Hughes, with Jean Reno and Christian Clavier in the main roles, but also Christina Applegate, Matt Ross, Tara Reid and Malcolm McDowell (in the role of the apothecary).

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