Yves Montand (1921-1991)
- Ivan Desney, Madeleine, 1950. Director David Lean's secretary, Mary Benson, suggested the fairly unknown Montand - like many a secretary since. He was not available (his English was atrocious) to be the Frenchman poisoned by his lover, Madeleine Smith, in Glasgow, circa 1850s.
- Georges Guétary, An American in Paris, 1951. MGMusical director Vincente Minnelli looked at - listened to - Guétary, Montand and Maurice Chevavier… and finally booked Montand’s parrot-fashioned English some 20 years later for On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, 1970.
- Jean Gabin, La Traversée de Paris, France, 1956. A French classic! And yet…. First, producteur Henry Deutchmeister had cashflow problems and auteur Claude Autant-Lara had to agree to black-white. Then, the producer and the book’s author, Marcel Aymé, wanted Bourvil outsted in favour of Bernard Blier. Ironically, the director had earlier considered Blier and Montand as the war-time black marketeers; now he wanted Bourvil and Jean Gabin and no one else. And like his politics, Autant-Lara was extremely right. Louis de Funès still stole the show. “He was incredible. He took a tiny role and made it huge!” From hereon, “Fufu” was no longer “serving the soup” to the stars. He was above the title. Producteur Henry Deutschmeister also dropped Montand from the Modigliani bio, Les amants de Montparnasse (Montparnasse 19) in 1958.
- Gérard Philipe, Mort en ce jardin,France-Mexico, 1956. Iconic Spanish director Luis Buñuel wanted Montand and his wife, Simone Signoret. But Montand felt they were too famous as a couple to play anything but a couple - such as inLes Sorcières de Salem, 1957. Simone made the film in pain over three months - the couple's longest separation.
- Gérard Philipe, Les amants de Montparnasse (aka Montparnasse 19), 1957. After the Russian crushing of Budapest in 1965, Montand was undecided abouthis planned concert tour of Iron Curtain countries.He was bookedto play Modigliani,until producer Henry Deutschmeister told him: "My backers and distributors have told me that if you go, they want no part of any film you're in." That, as his wife Simone Signoret put it, was the famous drop of water that caused the pail to overflow. Montand started his tour...Two months later, Gérard Philipe cabled him in Leningrad about replacing him. For some time Montand remained fâché with Philipe and realisateur Jacques Becker (substituting the now dead Max Ophuls) . Deutschmeister's next project won new backers... Normandie-Niemen was the first Franco-Soviet co-production!
- Oldrich Luke, Der schweigende Stern (US: First Spaceship on Venus), East Germany-Poland, 1959. Montand and Simone Signoret heading off to Venus in Stanislaw Lem science fiction? Nearly happened. Until the East German commisars ordered no Western stars - despite their leftish leanings.
- Peter Finch, The Nun's Story, 1959. Gentleman director Fred Zinnemann started with a short list for Dr Fortunati. Gérard Philipe disapproved of Robert Anderson's script, Montand was unknown in America - so was Finch. But he was cheap. And understandable.
- Hardy Kruger/.Gérard Blain, Hatari! 1961. Clark Gable, The King, agreed to co-star with John Wayne, the Duke, in 1960 - if he had $1m, 10% of the gross.And top billing.No way, said Paramount. Director Howard Hawks kept Duke and after Montand refused - asthere was no fixed script (or budget!) for the oftenimproovised, hotch-potch of previous Hawksianmovies - split what had beenWayner’soriginal role between "the German and the little French guy.” (Gable died in the very monthshooting began).
- Philippe Avron, Bye Bye, Barbara, France, 1968. Realisateur Michel Deville wanted Michel Piccoli and Montand. He got Bruno Crèmer and Philippe Avron. Not the same thing at all, at all!
- Marlon Brando, The Night of the Following Day, 1969. All set for the lead until other commitments got in the way. Richard Boone was about to replace him when Brando showed an interest - or his ex-agent-turned producer Jay Kanter made sure he did.
- Michel Piccoli, Les Choses de la vie, France-Italy-Switzerland, 1969. First off, the supreme realisateur Claude Sautet considered Montand and Annie Giradot (Cladue Lelouch’s Colomb couple in Vivre pour vivre) as the Bérard couple inthe first of Sautet’s classic treasures. (Candice Bergen came between the Colombs, Romy Schneider between the Bérards).
- Jean-Pierre Cassel, L'ours et la poupée, France, 1969. “Cassel who?” said 20th Century Fox. Brigitte Bardot stuck by him, finally rewarding him for bringing Une ravissante idiote to her attention in 1963. (Well, she liked it!). And so, Delon/Deneuve, Belmondo/Bardot, Montand/Deneuve (five years before Le sauvage) became Bardot/Cassel - and a surprise big hit. Everywhere but France where critics moaned they weren’t Kate Hepburn/Cary Grant - while Italian producers kept chasing them for more of the same. Montand was away shooting On A Clear Day You Can See Forever with Barbra Streisand, no less.
- Michel Piccoli, Max et les ferrailleurs, (Max and the Junkmen), France-Italy, 1970. His producer suggested Montand or Alain Delon but Claude Sautet kept the faith with his previous leading man. And kept Montand for his next, indeed his best - César et Rosalie, 1972, and Vincent, Francois, Paul et les autres, 1973.
- Peter Sellers, There’s A Girl In My Soup, 1970. The West End comedy hit’s protagonist was a chef. And the best chefs are French, right? That apears to be the reason for the fleeting notion of Montand as the TV cookery star and Brigitte Bartdot as the best dish on his menu.
- Louis de Funès, Sur un arbre perché. France, 1971. Realisateur Serge Korber planned on Montand and Annie Giradot (already coupledin Claude Lelouch’s Vivre pour vivre, 1967) as the man and his mistress stuck in a crashed car, cartoonishly hanging by a branch above a ravine. De Funès heard about it when making Korber’s farce, l'Homme orchestre andsaid: “Do it with me. We can rewrite it as a comedy.” And with Shirley MacLaine, pourquoi pas?Because she was too busy, “Fufu” settled for the daughter of his idol, to play… non, not his mistress, but wife.Danny De Vito’s re-make never happened, Montand and MacLaine coupled in My Geisha, 1961, Montand and De Funeswere surprise co-stars in La folie des grandeurs, 1971,andFufu wed Giradot for La Zizanie (US: The Spat), 1977.
- Lino Ventura, Le silencieux (US: The Silent One), France-Italy, 1972. Prodigious dialoguist-turned-auteur Michel Audiard (129 scripts in 36 years) had no timeto polish the espionage drama for Montand and Annie Giradot. He passed it on to realisateur Claude Pinoteau - who selected Ventura and Suzanne Flon.
- Jean Gabin, Deux hommes dans la ville (US: Two Men In Town), France-Italy, 1973. Auteur Jose Giovanni dips into his troubled past (again) via ex-con Alain Delon being rehabilitated by Gabin and hassled by Michel Bouquet’s old and unforgiving cop. (Giovanni, incidentally, had been reprieved from Death Row in France). Gabin’s “educator” was not where Montand thought he ought to be at this stage in his career. He had something much better, an instant classic…
- Serge Reggiani, Vincent, Francois, Paul et les autres,France-Italy, 1973. Once Sautet started seeing Vincent as a macho, he had to be Montand. As with Cèsar et Rosalie, when he wasn’t sure about playing a cuckold, now Montand didn’t wish to be a loser. Yet he trusted Sautet... who compared him favourably with Raimu. Reggiani better suited Paul, the frustrated writer, in the “film choral” - Sautet’s biggest box-office success.
- Philippe Noiret, Le vieux fusil, France, 1975. Mysterious, this rejection of what became the most loved French film of the 70s. Later voted best of all the César-winning French films in the first decade of the awards.Montand admits that Noiret was remarkable - especially in the scene after finding Romy Schneider brutalised and killed… "I doubt I could've done it so well."
- Patrick Deware, Le juge Fayard, dit Le SherifFrance, 1976. After making Police Python with Montand, director Alain Corneau got him interested in the true story of French Judge Renaud- "a good judge, who put his own son in jail; that interested us a lot, but I was too late." Yves Boisset moved first. With a younger juge.
- François Truffaut, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1976. Spielberg wanted only Truffaut (and could hardly believe he agreed). His (eleven) producers also put out feelers to Montand, Philippe Noiret, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Lino Ventura for Claude Lacombe (based on real-life French UFO expert and documentary director Jacques Vallée). Co-producer Julia Phillips was proud of nabbing Truffaut - for only $75,000 "and no points"! She soon changed her mind, as revealed in her livid autobiography. "Of all the dead people I know, [he] wins the prick award hands down... He was an arrogant, famous French director and I couldn't help but feel that he was fucking with us." And he, apparently, hated her after she trapped him into proving his "well-known deaf-in-the-left-ear legend was a plot, like not speaking English, to keep the world at bay and for his own amusement." Film opened on February 6, 1978, Truffaut's 46th birthday. He was dead soon after his 52nd.
- Jean Rochefort, Le cavaleur, France, 1978. Montand enjoyed making Michel Audiard’s Le grand escogriffe in 1976 - “for the first time, a text to relish”.Yet he edged back from playing this skirt-chasing pianist.Too closeto home. (Minus the piano). "I never understood how Montand chose films," commented realisateur m Philippe De Broca. "I offered him great subjects and each time there was a problem. He was a complex man... a perfectionist, obsessed by the tiniest detail. I spent three days of hell trying to persuade him, explaining the character - then Rochefort snapped it up."
- Alberto Sordi, Le temoin, France, 1978. Veteran French superstar Jean Gabin died three days after accepting the lead. Montand proved unavailable at such short notice and Jean-Pierre Mocky had to accept an Italian bighead who thought it OK to bring along his own scriptwriter and to take over the mise-en-scène!
- Jacques Dutronc, Y a-t-il un Français dans la salle? France, 1981. The caustic realisateur Jean-Pierre Mocky was making mock again (what else?) and all of his choices backed away from sending up the French parliamentary system: Montand, Philipe Noiret and Jean Rochefort.
- Sean Connery, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, France-Italy-West Germany, 1986. Réalisateur Jean-Jacques Annaud was not keen on 007 as Umberto Eco’s medieval monk turned detective. Columia Pictures even refused financing if Connery was involved as his post-Bond star was imploding. Naturally, Brando topped Annaud’s further 14 ideas. Six Americans: Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Frederic Forrest, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Roy Scheider; four Brits: Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Ian McKellen, Terence Stamp; plus the French Montand, Canadian Donald Sutherland, Irish Richard Harris, Italian Vittorio Gassman and Swedish Max von Sydow. Connery’s reading was the best and his career exploded anew. Two years later, he won his support Oscar for The Untouchables.
- Jean Yanne, Attention bandits, France, 1987. This was realisateur Claude Lelouch’stribute to Jean Gabin and his 50s’ thrillers. The realisateur wanted Montand as his lead - the father of actress Marie-Sophie L (Lelouch’s latest actress-lover).The superstar had two replies. 1: “I'm not playing second fiddler to your girlfriend.” 2: “I’m not her father, I’m her lover.” Montand was 66 and the lover role went to another singer-actor, Patrick Bruel, of the right age: 28.
- Jan Rubes, Courage Mountain, 1989. Inspired by Jean de Florette, Kirk's producer sons, Joel and Michael Douglas, announced Montand as the grandfather in their Heidi re-make. Mais... the French idol had horror of playing anything near his real age and passed it on to the Czech star. Opposite a Charlie Sheen described as being "as Swiss as Brooklyn bridge."
- Gérard Depardieu, Cyrano de Bergerac, 1990. It was about time… The French had not tackled their classic hero since Daniel Sorano headed a TVersion - 30 years previously! And Claude Dauphin had starred in the last Paris movie as far back as 1945! Philippe De Broca was chief among realisateurs trying to rectify the situation.Yet his differing adaptations were tossed aside by Belmondo, Montand and Philippe Noiret. De Broca threw in the towel - picked up by Jean-Paul Rappeneau, who wrote L’homme de Rio for Belmondo, Le Sauvage for Montand and directed Noiret in La vie de château.He didn’t call on any of them and Depardieu was impeccable - one of film history’s greatest performances.
- Raf Vallone, The Godfather: Part III, 1991.
- François Cluzet, L’Enfer, France, 1994. Thirty years earlier, his Wages of Fear star had been realisateur Henri-George Clouzot’s first choices for Romy Schneider’s jealous husband. Next? Burt Lancaster, Raf Vallone. Le mari finished at the opposite end of virility with French singer Serge Reggiani - whose ill health, followed by Clouzot’s heart attack cancelled the movie. (He had already shot 15 hours of the film - and various tests, including one sequence of himself, in the role). The ‘90s’ version was (ill) made by Claude Chabrol.