In 1931, the twenty-four-year-old Parisian thief Henri Charrière was railroaded on a murder charge and sent to French Guiana to do hard time.
His tales of incarceration, solitary confinement, escape, recapture, and eventual freedom were published in the 1969 nonfiction novel PAPILLON, an international bestseller centered on the relationship between Charrière (nicknamed “Papillon”; see sternum tattoo) and Louis Dega, a counterfeiter—and “soft” inmate—who befriended Papi for protection in exchange for Dega’s cash.
In a comedic, free-wheeling post-screening conversation this week with Elvis Mitchell of Film Independent at the Writers Guild, director Michael Noer talked about his new version of the book (previously filmed in 1973) as a “coming-of-age” story, a “love story between two men who are totally different, who are dealing with chaos and disorder.”
In the remake, Charlie Hunnam makes a visceral physical impact in the title role, and Rami Malek ably embodies Dega. Convict-turned-award-winning-actor Roland Møller (memorable in Land of Mine) lends an additional level of realism to a film that spares little in its depiction of the degradations of prison life.
PAPILLON, now playing.
Top: Charlie Hunnam (right) as “Papi” and Michael Socha as Julot in Papillon.
Above: Roland Møller as Celier.
Below: Hunnam, director Michael Noer, and Rami Malek on the set.