Jérôme Salle’s film on Cousteau is a titanic project. Here are some elements to apprehend it, on the occasion of its rebroadcast on France 2.
Biopic of a great beloved and controversial figure, period film, family drama, adventure at the end of the world and epic through the twentieth century: Jerome Hall had to cross the years and travel the world to complete his Odyssey. Story in a few key steps.
On the red carpet of The Odyssey: video
12 years of gestation
The first time that Jérôme Salle spoke about a project on Cousteau to Marc Missonnier and Olivier Delbosc (co-producers for Fidélité Films), it was in 2004, just before the shooting ofAnthony Zimmer. They immediately bought the rights to Jean-Michel Cousteau’s book, My father, the Commander. While Pan European, with whom Salle did Largo Winch, bought the rights to Captain of La Calypso Albert Falco, Cousteau’s right-hand man. Instead of reproducing the war of biopics of Chanel or Saint Laurent, the two companies have decided to join forces.
This nis not a biopic
The first version of the script unfolded the life of the commander from his birth in 1910 until his death in 1997. But the lack of point of view, the problem of the actor to cast to play Cousteau from his youth to his death, and the cost of a period film (estimated at 40 million euros) got the better of this first idea. After having considered giving up, Salle returned with a script refocused on the commander’s adulthood, and therefore on his family. Final cost: 20 million (the budget of a big comedy).
The Godfather as a model
L‘Odyssey It was therefore no longer a film about Cousteau, but about a father-son relationship mediated by the mother figure. “Yes, The Godfather was the ultimate model” confirms Jérôme Salle, whose favorite film is. The other important reference of the filmmaker is The Tree of Life by Malick, for the relationship with nature, with childhood, with the father, with a taste for impressionism.
The thousand faces of the Commander
In the first version of the script, it was the English actor Adrien Brody who was approached for the role of Cousteau. Then Pierre Niney was approached to embody him young, while Romain Duris took over from quarantine at the end of his days. With the final script tightened on Cousteau’s adulthood, one actor was enough. And the choice of Lambert Wilson it’s imposed. ” LLambert’s advantage, c‘that is‘he naturally exudes some kind of kindness. Suddenly, it allowed me to‘hook the viewer, qu‘he does not say to himself: “Well, ok, a real bastard this Cousteau“”. Pierre Niney finally took on the role of son Philippe.
The fake Calypso
It was the trigger for the whole film: even before having a script or funding, Laurent Ott, the production designer, found his Calypso: a minesweeper capable of being repainted and shaped like Cousteau’s ship. But at the start of filming, the crew realized that all the papers ensuring the boat was in working order were forgeries. Impossible to make it navigate.
The end of the world
This did not prevent the (small) team from going to film for 15 days in Antarctica, after having considered filming this expedition against a green background. “Shoot the scenes of the‘Antarctica on a green background would have been the very negation of the project’ considers Laurent Ott. ” VS‘is the best memory of my life from filming, says Lambert Wilson. We were dropped off with Pierre Niney on a piece of isolated ice floe, filmed by a drone flying overhead. VS‘was unheard of. Not a sound, just beauty to thepure state. Obviously, we feel it at‘screen. “
Interview by François Grelet
Our review of The Odyssey
The odyssey by Jérôme Salle with Lambert Wilson, Pierre Niney and Audrey Tautou is broadcast tonight on France 2. Trailer:
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