Philippe Leotard, Kamouraska, France, 1972.
The reason Depardieu never made a film with Claude Lelouch... The flashy realisateur was also a producteur and asked the Saved stage find to make Comme dans le vie. So Depardieu rejected the Claude Jutra gig only to find Pierre Villemin’s film was cancelled after three weeks shooting. Lelouch said he couldn’t pay the actor (30m Francs) for stupid reasons: (a) the film was not good, (b) too dangerous to shoot in Vietnam. “Listen to me,” said Depardieu, virtually unkowni at the time, “keep your money. Your attitude is disgusting. Never will I make a film with you.” And he never did. No matter how often Lelouch called. “I’ve many faults,” agreed the superstar, “but I always keep my word.”
- Philippe Leotard, La gueule ouverte, France, 1973. Depardieu had talks with the elder newcomer, the obnoxious and always over-praised realisateur Maurice Pialat - and then decided upon Bertrand Blier’s Les valseuses, instead. And France’s biggest star was born. Depardieu later made three films with for "the lyrical toad" - fractious projects full of vitriolic walk-outs and vows of “never again!”
- Jacques Spiessier, RAS, Italy-France-Tunisia, 1973. Auteur Yves Boisset “rejected me for his Algerian war film because... I was trop acteur... too much of an actor. Also, he thought that during the tele-film, Rendez-vous a Baden-Berg, 1966, that I’d had slept with his girlfriend, Martine Redon. Not true. At the time I could never have an affair with an actress. She swore by all the gods that nothing happened. He wouldn’t believe us.”
- Patrick Dewaere, Adieu poulet, France, 1975. Lino Ventura and Dewaere were fine in the old cop/young cop thriller. Ventura and Depardieu would have been devastating!
- Terence Hill, Un genio, due compari, un pollo (US: A Genius, Two Friends And An Idiot), Italy-France-West Germany, 1975. Les valseuses Go West… That was Sergio Leone’s plan for Depardieu, Patrick Dewaere and Miou-Miou. But the French film didn’t do well enough to impress the suits. Just Miou-Miou went to Monument Valley “and did her thing perfectly” opposite Terence Hill and Robert Charlebois. “The Canadian singer had the humour and humanity of Eli Wallach but [director[ Damiano Damiani never made use of it.” The movie disappointed the maestro and he never made another Western.
- Patrick Dewaere, Le Juge Fayard, dit “Le Shérif,” France, 1976. To his surprise, Yves Boisset called on Depardieu again, this time to play the slain Judge Jean-Marie Fayard. “But I wouldn’t work with Boisset” - due to their 1973 quarrel. “Le gros” often phoned Dewaere about the films he had turned down - and this one would be better for him. “I wasn’t wrong, the film was an enormous success and Patrick was exceptional.”
- François Truffaut, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, 1976. An idea only revealed by Steven Spielberg in 2002. "I love French cinema and theatre and greatly admire French actors. I regularly offer them roles, and they nearly always say Non."
- Victor Lanoux, Une Femme à sa fenêtre, France, 1976. Considered as an urgent replacement for Lanoux, injured during the first week of shooting. However, realisateur Pierre Granier-Deferre found a way to continue with Lanoux... although being less than pleased with his work.
- Pierre Segui, The Deer Hunter, 1978. As a French legionnaire.
- Patrick Dewaere, Coup de tête, France, 1978. At first, the mighty Gaumont combine point-blank refused Dewaere as being too much like the titular hothead (for stalking out of La carapate). And to rub its displeasure in, Gaumont boss Alain Poiré suggested who else but “Le gros.” Director Jean-Jacques Annaud had nothing against that idea Over dinner, Annaud told Dewaere he couldn’t use him - uninsurable because of his drug habit. The actor stopped eating, looked Annaud straight in the eye and promised: “l’ll stop. Finish! Never take anything again.” Actually, he might have played better football when high and loose. He was so bad, he had to be doubled by soccer star Lucien Denis.
- Patrick Dewaere, Un mauvais fils, France, 1980. Dewaere had failed twice before with Claude Sautet - losing bits in César et Rosalie and Vincent, François, Paul et les autres. (“I don’t see you in a suit,” the director had told him). Anyway, the auteur wanted to keep his promise to “Le gros” - to work with him again and in a lead role this time. And that was an ex-druggie returning to France after five years in a US prison… Perfect for Patrick! Sautet reconsidered, feeling that Gerard didn’t (yet) have Dewaere’s winning vulnerability that had so impressed Sautet in Preparez vos mouchoirs. The situation was solved when François Truffaut called up GéGé for Le Dernier Métro.
- Richard Berry, Une chambre en ville, France 1982.
Depardieu and and Deneuve seemed magic casting by realisateur Jacques Demy for a “musical tragedy” close to his heart and home town of Nantes. “But she wanted to sing and Depardieu said: If she sings, I sing as well.” He could, she couldn’t. “A catastrophic duo!” said Demy. He cast and dubbed two lesser egoes: Richard Berry, Dominique Sanda. Only Danielle Darrieux sang for herself. At age 65.
- Alain Souchon, L’Eté meurtrier (UK/US : One Deadly Summer), France, 1982. It was either because of Adjani or the stupid name of her lover - Pin-Pon - but all The Guys passed. Depardieu, Dewaere, Gerard Klein and singer Yves Duteil. Adjani suggested another singer… one who could never take the shine off her. They made a a rubbish couple: non-sexpot and non-actor. Realisateur Jean Becker got him for his next film, Elisa, 1994. So how was he, a decade later? “Gérard is someone with an extreme sensitivity... a magnificent companion.”
- Philippe Noiret, L'African, France, 1982. Times were changing. Realisateur Philippe De Broca talked to Depardieu and then Belmondo. It used to be Belmondo before anyone. “All the heroes in his films are... De Broca,” said Noiret. “That's why as he got older he’s moved from Jean-Pierre Cassel to me!"
- James Woods, Once Upon A Time In America, US-France, 1983. The French Hulk promised to learn not only English, but American - when Sergio Leone wanted Bertolucci’s 1900 Depardieu-De Niro duo. “At first, I wanted Max to be French… After all, the French Connection was not an invented by scenarists! I was tempted - Gérard was genial in 1900. And I knew he frequented the underworld. Then, I decided to have the characters played as children, adults, and old-timers” - played by Jean Gabin and James Cagney
- Alain Souchon, L'eté meurtrier/One Deadly Summer, France, 1983. “He was taken by Maurice Pialat at the time,” recalls film-maker Jean Becker who got him for his next film, Elisa, 1994. So how was he, a decade later? “Gérard is someone with an extreme sensitivity... a magnificent companion.”
- Lee Marvin, Canicule, France, 1983. Sadly, the mighty Gérard made just the one film with the prodigious dialoguist-turned-auteur Michel Audiard (129 scripts in 36 years) - Le cri du cormoran, le soir au-dessus des jonques in 1970. This gangster on the run with a million in cash was penned with GéGé in mind, but proved... in a word, grotesque. Marvin co-starred with Gérard’s drinking buddy, Jean Carmet, and probably had little memory of it. Lucky him. (After two more films, Marvin was dead at 63 in 1987).
- François Cluzet, 'Round Midnight, US-France, 1986. Christophe(r) Lambert was also considered for the impossible: a boring jazz film.
- Donald Sutherland, Oviri - The Wolf At The Door, Denmark, 1987. When French money was involved, it had to be Depardieu (or Claude Brassuer) as Paul Gaugin. Going it alone, director Henning Carlsen’s 14th film became Sutherland’s 65th.
- Burt Reynolds, Malone, 1987. Starting with Delon before making its inevitable trek to The Bulk’s door, the French thriller finished up in LA. Burt always wondered “how this guy got re-written into me."
- Thierry Fremont, Mon ami, le traite, France 1988. Agreed in 1977, having failed to make José Giovanni’s previous project, The Bouncer. “I hope this time I'll be luckier.” Non!
- Nick Nolte, Farewell To The King, 1989. Before director John Milius got hold of it, French realisateur Pierre Schoendoerffer had lined it up to follow Depardieu's Le sucre in 1978. Nick Nolte twice played Depardieu roles in the Hollywood rehash of his comedies, Les compères, 1983, Les fugitifs, 1986.
- Jean-Marc Barr, Europa, Denmark-Sweden-France-Germany-Switzerland, 1991. “I saw him as Leo,” admitted Danish autuer Lars von Trier, ”but the French co-producers suggested Jean-Marc... I hesitated after seeing him in Le grand bleu, thinking him too immature for such a complex character. Then, I realised Leo fitted him like a glove.” Barr has been in almost every Von Trier film since then.
- Jean-Marc Barr, Le Brasier, France, 1991. Gérard was wise to avoid going down these coal mines - pretentious as only a French film, at its worst, can be. So horrendous that Eric Barbier did not get a director’s jgig again for nine years.
- Jacques Dutronc, Van Gogh, France 1991. Realisateur Maurice Pialat’s first thought: “I wanted to make a self-portrait with the head of Gérard.” Depardieu greatly admired it and wrote a passionate open letter to Pialat in the Liberation newspaper.
- Richard Bohringer, Veraz, France 1991. Xavier Castano’s first feature. He never made a second, returning to first assistant acting and producing duties.
- Jeremy Irons, Damage, 1993. Announced by director Louis Malle for Josephine Hart's much praised novel of a tragic, sexual obsession by a 50-something politico for his son's lover. One small problem. He was a British politico.
- Roberto Benigni, Son of the Pink Panther, 1993. Presumption, thy name is Blake Edwards... In an exact re-run of losing Peter Ustinov from the original 1964 comedy, writer-director Edwards felt he had the French #1 set as the #1 French cop's #1 bastard son. Too slow writing, too fast with a shooting date, he found Depardieu, quelle surprise, booked up to the end of the century. Edwards also lost Rowan Atkinson, Tim Curry and Kevin Kline, Edwards chose the Italian Benigni - far less subtle than Peter Sellers - but a good excuse to resurrect Claudia Cardinale from the first film, The Pink Panther, 1962,as his mother, Maria Grambelli, following her affair with Clouseau. Except, of course, CC was an Indian princess in the first film and Maria was Elke Sommer in the second, A Shot in the Dark, 1963. So much funnier than this… shot in the the head.
- Jean-Pierre Mocky, Le mari de Léon, France, 1993. “I asked all of them, but none of them wanted to do it,” said Mocky. “ Depardieu said it was too close to Tenue de soirée. So I did it myself.” Not too much of a stretch for the most prolific French film maker - 63 films since 1946.
- Robert De Niro, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, 1994. Producer Francis Coppola fancied Depardieu (or Malkovich), Kenneth Brannagh went for a real monster. Don Corleone.
- Eddy Mitchell, Le Bonheur est dans le pré, France, 1995. The film was devised by scenarist Florence Quentin for Jean Carmet. And his pal Depardieu agreed to join him. Then, helas, Carmet died in 1994.
- Kevin Kline, French Kiss, 1995. “He was committed for years,” said a disappointed Meg Ryan.
- André Dussolier, La belle epoque, France, TV, 1996. FrançoisTruffaut’s final script was turned into a TV series by the French ratings champ, TF1. Truffaut had planned a series plus a film. He was discussing the role of Louis Renault with Depardieu on August 12, 1983 - when he felt “a revolver explode in my head,” first indication of his fatal brain tumour
- Jeremy Irons, Lolita, 1996. When UK director Adrian Lyne started talking re-make in 1992, Hollywood said: Dustin Hoffman. Lyne said: Depardieu. Backers said nothing - for three years.
- Frank Langella, Lolita, 1996. Adrian Lyne tried to keep him aboard as Humbert Humbert’s rival, as if any one - any accent - could improve on Peter Sellers as Clare Quilty.
- Stellan Skarsgård, Breaking The Waves, Denmark-Sweden-France-Holland-Norway-Iceland, 1996. “As I wrote the script, the role began to resemble him,” said Danish director Lars von Trier. “I met him in Paris but he was far too busy and...not particularly interested.”
- Jacques Villeret, Le dîner de cons (The Dinner Game), France, 1997.
With a heavy heart, Depardieu refused his auteur pal Francis Veber’s 14m Euros offer. “I’m simply incapable. I don’t have the necessary physical or psychological faculties. I’m totally depressed - la tête dans le sac - flying in too many planes to make too many films for my friends... It’s impossibsle. Get Jacques!” Depardieu was back on form for Veber’s next, Le placard, 200 - their fifth conedy since 1981.
- Olivier Martinez, La femme de chambre de Titanic/Titanic Chambermaid, France, 1997. Interested when Bosnian director Emir Kusturica was due to direct, not when Paris producer Toscan Du Plantier moved down wind to Spain’s Bigas Luna.
- Liam Neeson, Les Miserables, 1998. Roman Polanksi was first choice to direct - “but only with Gérard as Valjean.” Plus, curiously, Liam Neeson as Inspector Javert. Depardieu later played Hugo’s great hero (following in the great French tradition of Harry Bauer, Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura and, in a Lelouch travesty, Jean-Paul Belmondo) in a tepid TV production, when he was hunted by John Malkovich’s Javert.
- Gary Shandling, Town and Country, 1998. A clever TV clown (The Larry Sanders Show) stands in for the greatest living French screen actor....! Warren Beatty's pal (already seen in Beatty's Love Affair, 1994) took over when Depardieu's face and knee injuries from a drunken motor-cycle crash delayed Asterix and Obelix vs Caesar for a month. So, he luckily had no time for one of the biggest Hollywood flops (worse than Beatty’s Ishtar, 1987), the $90m movie earning a mere $6.7m at the box-office. Beatty has not made a film since.
- Gérard Lanvin, Passionnement, France, 1999. Realisateur Bruno Nuytten's dream of Depardieu-Adjani became Lanvin-Charlotte Gainsbourg.
- Arno Chevrier, Agnes Browne, 1999. To follow her fierce directing debut, Bastard Out of Carolina, Anjelica Huston chose a softer subject in her second homeland, Ireland. She’d also play Agnes, widowed mother of seven with nary an “organism.” Huston contacted Depardieu for Pierre, the French baker on Moore Street. But the actor had broken a leg in one of his motor-cycle crashes.
- Christophe(r) Lambert, Vercingétorix, 2001. A new project for film-maker Daniel Vigne (Le retour de Martin Guerre) dissipated into an almost Carry On debacle for the myopic Highlander.
- Gérard Lanvin, San Antonio, France, 2003. French film folk roared with laughter when Depardieu was announnced as the famous Comissaire. He was just too... fat! At least 20 kilos too heavy and so, Lanvin finally got the role, first offered him in 1993. And le gros Depardieu became le gros Berurier - in le gros flop.
- Daniel Auteuil, 36 Quai des Orfevres, France, 2004. On the advice of their auteur Olivier Marchal (an ex-cop), the stars swopped their cops pushing to head the CID at the Paris police HQ. Depardieu became the drunken, corrupt Anti-Crime unit brute destroying Auteil’s decent, if law-bending boozer of the Search and Action squad. Not that their story ended there… The Guardian critic Philip French rightly called it the best French cop art since Bob Swaim's La Balance, 1982.
- Bruno Todeschini, Une aventure, France, 2005. Due opposite Charlotte Gainsbourg for the third time (after Merci la vie and Les miserables) for Xavier Giannoli when it was A cause de la nuit.
- Daniel Auteuil, MR 73 (US: The Last Deadly Mission), France, 2007. Not swopping this time, replacing the too busy Depardieu. Although Auteuil was now Schneider, not Vrinks, and in Marseille not Paris, this could almost be a continuation of his disgraced flic in the same director Olivier Marchal’s 36 Quai des Orfevres.
- William Hurt, The Countess, France-Germany, 2009. Czech director Zdenek Troska opened the 21st Century by announcing Cher, Depardieu, Anjelica Huston, in the story of mass-murderer Elizabeth Bathory, the Hungarian countess who kept her (1560-1614) beauty by bathing in the blood of virgin girls. French actress Julie Delpy took over, haphazardly, as writer, composer, director. And star.
- Jean Dujardin, Le bruit des glaçons, France, 2010. An alcoholic writer meets his cancer - embodied by Albert Dupontel - in Bertrand Blier’s brilliant return to caustic form. “I wrote it for Gérard,” said l’auteur. “I write everything for Gerard. If I write a woman, it’s for Gérard. If I write a dog... He’s my perfect alter ego. But he was too busy... and I decided a young man, having a tumour in his 40s, would be more hard.”
- Andre Dussolier, La Belle et la Bete, France, 2012. French film critic turned realisateur Christopher Gans found it easy to cast his leads - Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel. But Belle’s father suddenly changed… and correctly so. Dussolier at age 67 was less of an oak than Depardieu.
- Jacques Weber, Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles, France, 2013. Last minute change of star for the first part of Katherine Pancol's literary trilogy. “Yes,” said the veteran stage star and director, “I’m replacing Gérard. Except Gérard is irreplaceable. We talked about it… and as the role is that of a plump man of a certain age, who else would they call?” They have both excelled as Cyrano de Bergerac. Weber on-stage, 1983, Depardieu on film, 1989.