“I told Gerard Butler that doesn’t make any sense, you don’t do that with a big plane!”

“I told Gerard Butler that doesn’t make any sense, you don’t do that with a big plane!”

Jean-François Richet, the director of Mesrine and The Emperor of Paris, is back with the effective Mayday, a “Gerard Butler Movie” whose hero is an airline pilot confronted with kidnappers.

Five years after the half-successful experiment of the ambitious The Emperor of Pariswith Vincent Cassel as Vidocq, Jean-François Richet was recruited by Gerard Butler For may day : a thriller where the hero of 300 And The White House fall plays an airline pilot whose plane crashes on a remote island in Asia populated by kidnappers/terrorists. Classic? But Richet manages to make may day a very effective actionermore credible and solid than his initial pitch suggested.

Last January, the director explained to us precisely how he was able to seize may day and turn it to its own sauce. We are sharing this interview again on the occasion of the broadcast of the action film, this evening on Canal +.

How did Gerard Butler recruit you to film may day ?
You receive a script from him – in fact, from a production company: Butler is both the producer and the star of the film. Nothing gets done without him. And so much the better: even since Assault on Central 13, I didn’t want to work for a big studio. My two films in the USA were for small structures – I know that all the French directors who go there thinking of making a revolution are crushed quite quickly. By reading the script of may dayI told myself that I still had some leeway to put my stamp on it, because the script I had was a little too superhero…

That’s to say ?
At first the film was really a little too much over the top. Butler’s character had totally incredible pilot skills: there was a chase with two helicopters, he did loops with his airliner, the bad guys threw grappling hooks at him to take the plane by storm… I I told Butler that doesn’t make any sense, you don’t do that with a big plane! And he understood it. And we didn’t do it. Even after the rewrites, there was still stuff like that but I still took it out. (laughs) Anyway, I talk to Butler about it via Facetime, I tell him it’s too much for me. That the film had to return to a principle of reality, of credibility. He says OK. I send notes to the producers, I indicate changes, Butler agrees… and they must have put money into the rewrite for real, because it went super fast. Not as usual! We talk a lot with Gerard: if things go badly with an actor, you’re dead, especially when he brings the money – so he’s right, and you’re wrong even when you’re right. (laughs) We really have to make the same film. He had seen the Mesrine, Blood Father And The Emperor of Paris. He knew my cinema. And he understood what I wanted to do.

But he hasn’t seen your first French films?
No, on the other hand, John Carpenter loved it My 6-T is going to crackthat’s why he wanted me to do the remake ofAssault. I was the first to remake Carpenter, at the time he didn’t want to sell the rights… He says in an interview that the only remake he likes is this one! Assault on central 13 allowed me to do Mesrine…and there isn’t a week that the film isn’t shown on American TV. And in the USA, the black community, they love it Assault on Central 13 ! I don’t know if it has become cult, it’s a big word, but people talk to me about it.

What new things did you bring to the script? may day ?
I brought little things: decapitation with a machete, the use of a big 50 caliber rifle at the end… They said yes to everything, haha!

How did the first meeting in the flesh with Gerard Butler go?
I met Butler in person in Puerto Rico during location scouting. We talked a lot – about the script first, and then about all aspects of the production. What did I want to change? What would make me go faster? Etc. A real producer. He traced everything back to Marc Butan, one of the producers of the film. He also protected my vision as a director. If he hadn’t been there, some of my ideas would have been saccharine. For example, the fight in sequence shot. Usually a scene like this is three days of filming divided into three or four sequences. With inserts without the main actor, with the stuntman filmed from behind… There, I wanted to shoot without a double, in a single take. And only a few people knew: the cinematographer, the stunt director, the assistant director, and obviously Gerard… the producers didn’t know. First take: he does it – without lining, therefore – and he can’t do it, we’re sweaty, it’s 40°… I told him: “Look, we have three days to shoot this, if we waste half a day doing nothing it’s not going to work.” He answers me : “don’t worry, I’ve got the next one.” Second take: boom, he does it. It was the second day of filming. He is super happy: “in Hollywood, they’re not going to come back!” A producer comes in, looks at this on the monitor and asks me: “Aren’t you going to cover up? Do a second take?” I said no… Nothing to do with the studio! (laughs) But if Gerard wasn’t there… I would have had to cover myself, trying to hide the inserts during editing. As a director, I had to come up with something new, exciting. But that makes sense. I told him that we had to be with his character, to be in pain with him, to see him struggling, suffering, grimacing… When he understood that, he was all in. He makes it his own and it also becomes his idea.

Exactly, how can we offer something new in action cinema after John Wick?
This will sound strange: I see very, very few action films. And I’ve never seen one John Wick. I don’t want to be an intellectual, but I read a lot, I rewatch a lot of classics… I’m not the target audience, in fact. But I’m sure I’d enjoy it, eh. Knowing a little about the teams that make them. You feel it’s done from the heart. And it’s not cynical, as frankness. Well, I promise, I’ll see them! (laughs)

Otherwise, you know you could have made the next one Asterix ? Guillaume Canet told us that the producers were looking for a director who met three conditions: to have won the César for Best Director, to have made a film in English and to have had a great popular success…
Haha! He stole my job, the bastard… I’m going to call him! (laughs) That said, I understand and it’s interesting: having worked in English, that means you know how to handle pressure – and Asterix is ​​an expensive film so you have to know how to handle that – if you’ve made entries is that you are recognized by the public, and if you have a César it is because you are recognized by your peers, by the profession. Well, I was happy to have had the Cesar for Mesrinebut today I’m not sure I would go looking for it if I had it.

For what ?
Because I work in cinema and not in politics, and today the Césars are in politics… It was the old team, a little patriarchal, who opened the door for me – I was still a suburban wanker who had done State of play ! Today if you don’t think like their team, you’re not even invited.

You say that you don’t do politics, but your first two films were still My 6-T is going to crack And State of playalmost manifestos…
Yes, but it’s my films that speak for me! They were small budgets, not political propaganda films that cost 5 million to make 40,000 admissions… State of play, it cost 20,000 euros! When I went on stage at the Césars, I thanked the public and the profession. I played the game.

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