View Full Version : French actor Pardieu to play A. Dumas pere ....

02-19-2010, 01:30 PM
in new film. Pardieu, who played Edmund Dantes, aka The Count of Monte Cristo, in a TV film, is to now have the role of Dumas himself in a forthcoming film. Pardieu, who is a large man, was IMO miscast as Dantes because of his hefty weight, but he should make a good Dumas who was also a heavier man.

There have been some objections to giving the role to Depardieu, a white man, since Dumas was, to my nearest calculations, about 1/8 black. His pateranal grandmother was a Santo Domingo black with some French blood. Santo Domingo is now the island of Haiti shared with the Dominican Republic. Dumas was a dark complected man with long curly black hair. With the proper makeup and wig, Dpardieu should make a good Dumas pere.

Dumas pere authored 48 historical high adventure novels, as well as many travel books, plays, and true crime stories. His life itself was full of adventure and a stable full of mistresses. He has sold more novels than any other French author, and his books have been made into more than 100 movies.

He also had a namesake son known as Alexandre Dumas fils who wrote the famous love story, Lady of the Camellias or Camille. This was made into a 30s movie starring Robert Taylor and Greta Garbo.

When Dumas pere died, he was interred in his native village in Picardy. But in 2002 he was disinterred and given new burial in the Pantheon of Paris where reside Emil Zola and Victor Hugo. His pallbearers were four in number and were dressed as Musketeers: Athos, Porthos, Aramas, and D' Artagnan.

Dumas cut quite a swath in life so a movie of his life should be interesting to say the least. One could do worse than reading the 48 novels devoted to French history. His Chateau Monte Cristo, located outside Paris is open to the public. While Dumas had others work on some of the plots of his novels, the master's touch was on all of them, especially the dialogs. Dumas is said to be the greatest writer of dialog ever.

02-19-2010, 01:55 PM
I think that one of his greatest roles was Cyrano de Bergerac .
But two ther major roles made me look at him from a different point of view :
Volpone and Vatel .

And he also played Balzac in 1999 ( with Jeanne Moreau,Virna Lisi,Claude Rich and Fanny Ardant as Eve Hanska ) , Vidocq in 2001 .

02-19-2010, 06:16 PM
I don't think he was miscast as Dantè. To repeat my other post: prison had the potential to make you fat (look at Oscar Wilde when he came out and that wasn't after 14 years). Ok, Dantès was supposed to be dark, but do looks really matter when the rest of the characterisation is to be called one of the best? His dark eyes were not a prominent feature, unlike in figure as Rochester f.i. Surely, no-one notices a few dark hairs. That was not te real important issue in Dantès. The latest Dantès in that English version was much and much worse yet he was dark.

His role as Dumas has made some controversy, because some are caiming that there are not enough dark-skinned actors, but that discussion is rather symptomatic of society in France than anything to do with Dumas himself.

Fine, Dumas was a quarter black (his grandmother), but, as Dfloyd claimed (if that is true) that even the grandmother had some white blood in her, then it is easily possible that Dumas's skin was white. At least the photos that are available of the man do not suggest that he was at all black (otherwise, he would not have been able to be photographed white). Jefferson's children with his black mistress were also white skinned. Don't know why and how, it just happened.

The only problem with Dumas in his age was that he did have at least very curly hair. Obviously a legacy from his grandmother. The result was that he was seen as a 'non-white', i.e. black. But he is an excellent writer and very popular. However, instead of being burried in the Panthéon (the appropriate place for recognised artists in France), he is burried in his own spot. Why? Because 'surely a black man is not at home in the Pantéon'? But, the man's reputation carries on and though he is black (or at least 'non-white'), he keeps on attracting people with his writings because they are gripping (very well written is another matter). And so, the process of making him white starts. In the meantime everyone has forgotten that he has some black blood, because 'surely one cannot love the writings of a black man'? So, history has made him white, but still has not given him the ultimate French honour, until Chirac decides to put him in the Pantéon in 2002. Now, they make a film of him, and behold, he must be black! Why? Because it is a politicaly incorrect insult. In order to be politically correct, they would even make him blacker than he was just to prove a point. While no-one actually cares.

I read somewhere that Dumas earned so much money with Monte Cristo that he could build himself his Château de Monte Cristo, but unfortunately, Dumas thought he had as much money as his hero. That wasn't true of course and he had to sell it. Don't know if it true, though.

If they did a lot of research on him and indeed, the right make-up and wig then there should not be a problem. I always think that an actor is only worth his script and director. If the French do something, they do it well, certainly if it is about such a figure. So, maybe I should look on YouTube regularly.

Disclaimer: Please remember that the views on blacks are expressions relative to 19th century thinking, and that tey are not my views.

02-19-2010, 06:35 PM
I will chime in here on a few fronts. I think Dumas was what we would call today a commercial genre author, but for what that is worth, a near great one. I have always been *taken in* by his work, even while aware of its limitations (i.e. there is not much depth to Dantes or his adversaries, and I agree with one scholar who compared Dantes to a comic book super hero).

I think much of the hostility to Dumas himself is racial, as we do not see such hostility directed at an equally flawed author like Balzac, and I think that Depardieu is the right superstar to play a writer of near equal fame. The camera loves the guy, and he can act when he feels like it.

02-20-2010, 08:05 AM
I know his name is Depardieu. As an actor, I generally like him, but I still think he was miscast as Dantes, but should be great as Dumas pere. The French made for tv movie also tried to bring some romance into the film, which was a big mistake, as was getting back with Mercedes at the end. Monte Cristo is a near pefect novel whose plot doesn't need to be altered.Too many times characters are eliminated or love interests injected where not necessary. It is a book all about revenge. The convoluted plot is great, the dialog is some of the best ever written, and the dozens of classical allusions satisfy Ovid lovers. I have read the unabridged novel three times and listened to it for 26 hours on cd. Possibly, the best Dantes is the English actor Robert Donat in the 30s.

On race, Dumas had the best answer himself as he replied to an insult on his multiracial background: "My father was a mullato, my grandfather was a negro, and my great-grandfather was a monkey. You see, Sir, my ancestors began where yours ends."

02-20-2010, 12:12 PM
@Jozanny: I don’t agree that Monte Cristo was a comic strip super hero. He is not mono-dimensional although he can be seen that way. Only the sheer amount of criticism written about him (in French as well as in English) should be sufficient to contest that view. However, I do agree on the popular writing front. Dumas is a popular writer, and in that, his themes are well chosen, but he is still a step up from contemporary popular writers in that he does dwell on well-known writers like Shakespeare, Molière and de la Fontaine in his works. That is something that modern popular writers do not do.

@Dfloyd: I do not believe Depardieu was miscast. They changed Monte Cristo’s looks, so what. If Dumas did not at all take the trouble to actually describe his characters much, and only decided to describe Dantès after his escape, it is the question if his looks were at all important. In the books I have read of Dumas, it strikes me that there is very little attention to outer appearance and I think the answer to the question why needs to be sought in Dumas’s original profession of playwright. Playwrights do not consider looks for the characters on their stage. One could not see them properly In those days anyway, but even now, they do not consider looks. Even something like age of the actor largely depends on tradition. Romeo is not Romeo because he looks like what Shakespeare intended Romeo to look like; Romeo is Romeo if he plays like Romeo. In that, Depardieu’s part for Monte Cristo and his other characters, was well written. I repeat my earlier post if I say that prison made one fat (sitting 24 hours a day in a cell of 10 m²). Only look at Oscar Wilde and he wasn’t in prison for 14 years. I don’t think it matters if Villefort looks like Pierre Arditi or not; Pierre Arditi played the part of Villefort and did that brilliantly. His characters are described to what matters (the distinction between Porthos and Aramis, for example; or d’Artagnan as Don Quichote), but they are not described like Brontë describes hers: with a view to physiognomy out of which one can draw certain conclusions as to the character’s personality. Brontë’s characters’ looks are important, where Dumas’s are only decoration and should only be applied so that a contrast or other characteristic comes across. Porthos is big and strong; Aramis is dark and cunning, so Porthos better be blonde. Athos can be anything, but he must mainly have a nice face that looks friendly and also sad. What colour eyes or hair he has is not terribly important. D’Artagnan is probably better as dark/hazel, but he must mainly be very rash.

Ok they changed the plot of Monte Cristo. The original plot was full of romantic coincidences that aren’t plausible in the medium film and full of characters that do not do well on film. Haydée was a silent side-kick meant for mystery. In a film that is not credible. There needs to be stuff to say, and in that, Camille was a good invention. Auteuil in the book was also a romantic coincidence (SPOILER Consider buying the very same house in which an illegitimate son of Villefort and Mme Danglars was born. And you didn’t know it :rolleyes: SPOILER OVER). Camille’s place that turns out to be the very same house is much more plausible. Cavalcanti was also too much drawn out, although it is a shame that they had to miss the déjà-vue of Dantès’s arrest. The plot of the original was too intricate to make a mini-series of satisfactory length. Particularly Mme de Villefort’s motif needs to be made clear, but that’s very difficult if not enough time is afforded.

That book is not at all about revenge alone. For the greatest part it is, but at the end of it, that view is challenged and with it the whole book. It is much more profound than meets the eye.

The 30s film suffered like all early Hollywood films (and some modern ones too) of fake acting. The passion of the actors is lacking and the result is a story and not more than that. The French version of 1996 (?) had very good dialogues and particularly Monte Cristo was very sinister. His dialogues and pronunciation of them expressed mystery, anger, disgust, but they also made him still a man, which was maybe a weak point in Dumas’s character. Dumas’s character was someone who had lost touch with the human side of things (almost a Faustian character, empty), a side he needs to rediscover in the end and that frightens him as a man. He almost seems empty apart from in a few instances where there is a flash of humanness like SPOILER where Maximilien Morel tells him he loves Valentine de Villefort and where Villefort’s son has died SPOILER OVER. The end is a matter of debate. Either they wanted to portray him or Mercédès. It is true, they did her a little short if anything, because after all Dantès was to blame for her husband’s suicide (although that was down to his own exploits in Janina). But forgiving is her choice. If they wanted to portray him (finding love again and being able to open oneself so one can be hurt, but also so one can be made happy by another), then they did him justice. I guess they just shortened it a little. At least there was no court case involved like in the 1930s film.

Though I suppose the real subtleties of that version are really lst in translation.

There is a photo of Depardieu in The Daily Mail as Dumas. Not bad! Apparently the film is a fictional account that tries to discover something about 'la négritude', i.e. ghost writership. At some point apparently, Maquet (played by Belgan (:D) actor Benoît Poelvoorde) starts to pose as Dumas himself and Dumas is angry. People start to confuse Maquet for Dumas for real as well. I think it might be interesting. But only if people do not believe the whole story, of which there is always a danger.

02-20-2010, 04:33 PM
kiki: In my good old American obtuseness, I dunno. ;) About Dantes and his mono-dimensionality. I read an abridged version of MC last year that left me scowling, and I am rereading the full text this year on my ereader--and I am just in the opening when he returns to Mercedes from the Pharon.

Dumas seems to truly believe in the purity of the soul, enough that he nearly makes me believe it, perhaps echoing Manzoni just a little, and yet, I can understand envy, but don't really understand what drives Danglers to destroy Edmond, at least, not the way I get a glimpse of understanding on the dynamic between Iago and Othello.

I will, however, reserve debate on the matter--which is not to say I don't love the book! I do.

Dumas is simply a fantastic story teller, and when the movie comes out, if I still have a Netflix account, I will add it to my queue. I like Depardieu, especially in that romantic triangle whose title I cannot remember, but seemed credible as it was comedic.

02-20-2010, 04:46 PM
Danglars, I think, was implied to want to have gained the command of the Pharaon. As the captain becomes sick and dies, he hopes to be appointed captain after they have arrived back in Marseille (naturally, Dantès as first in commad after the captain will be captain for the remainder of the trip). But to his great amazement and jealousy, Dantès gets his post as captain without any consideration and he wants him out of the way. I think that was the main reason for Danglars's action apart from the money that was connected wuth the pos of course. He knew he wasn't good enough, wasn't loved by the men, but wanted to get there anyway, and Dantès was in the way.

I don't know what happened actually. I don't think he ever became captain. I don't think he did. Tht's such a lapse in Dumas work of which there are a few.

Modest Proposal
02-21-2010, 06:21 PM
There was a discussion between some of the great writers of today on Dumas and his sub-par writing yet near untouchable story-telling. I think it was Umberto Eco, Salmon Rushdie and Mario Vargas Llosa at one of the big literary events. The diversity of the group should dispel the notion that Dumas naysayers are racially motivated. Not that anyone here was specifically saying that.

I am not a fan of Dumas particularly, but tend to agree with this assessment. He got a lot of his story lines from underlings--somewhat akin to master artists having their students paint certain portions of a large fresco--and wrote very quickly. He is obviously a master at producing what the masses want--like James Cameron--but I haven't ever felt challenged or provoked by his ideas or prose.

02-21-2010, 08:41 PM
Semi ot: The film that made me fall in love with Depardieu is Too Beautiful For You. It averages a three star rating but to me it is a quiet masterpiece, before the great Frenchman learned how to coast a la Hollywood style. I put it in the queue for reviewing thanks to this thread--since I no longer have cable. I can live without it but miss my diet of foreign films, which makes me hope I can hold on to Netflix a bit.

Modest: I did not mean to imply that contemporary discontent with Dumas was motivated by bias, or not all of it, but my general sense is that his work seems to invite more hostility than other writers of his era receive, maybe also due to class bias, since he was not as educated as his peers. I have not quite fully sorted out in my own mind which of his detractors are fair and which aren't, but those who went after him in his lifetime really seem to have hated him for his success.

02-23-2010, 05:27 AM
I think part of Dumas's problem (how deep it goes sometimes) is a matter of translation. There are a whole load of allusions to French literature in his work, beside a few of international literature as well. Also French politics do sometimes play a role. Translating that into English is difficult. Even if one translates it with the alluson in it then it is the question whether it will be picked up.

He wrote for the averagely educated people (the boureois class who could at least read), unlike Hugo who wrote for the truly educated. Hugo is no doubt that little level higher. However, Dumas did write for the big public, but I wouldn't say he is totally void of any 'soul' literature-wise.

03-09-2010, 12:00 AM
I think I have a hazy grasp of the pro and cons on the Bonaparte question, as I realize it is an important part of French history, and had a role in the American expansion as well, but I have to confess it is hazy. Napoleon gets crowned out of nowhere, gets exiled, comes back, then dies on this horrid island while under English care. The monarchy rather fizzles, then you have some Bonaparte relatives rule the Empire, and all I remember after that is President Mitterand, and the current one with the actress.

Dumas doesn't clear this up all that much, you're right.

03-09-2010, 05:48 AM
:lol: waw that's hazy!

Napoleon did not come truly out of nowhere. He was a very good soldier and won a whole load of battles as general in Italy and Egypt. After which he returned to France and did a coup, showing the peaceful Directoire government the door and becomes Consul. A little after this, he crowned himself emperor.

After his great expansions of about the whole of western Europe, the Russians could finally put a stop to him and the rest saw him weakening. The leading noble families of Europe had been afraid of him, because nothing could quite put a stop to him, and the next to be conquered were they themselves. Needless to say that they didnot want to give up their power. So, with the Russians having seriously weakened his army (half of them starved to death in their Summer uniforms in the Russian Winter and with the Russians leaving no food, having burned their crop), they see ther chance. He finally abdicates in 1814 and leaves a France, ruined and with fewer men than ever. They ship him off to Elba, just off the coast of Italy, but the guy contrives to come back (The 100 Days). They can finally capture him in 1815 in Waterloo, near Brussels, and this time they ship him off to St Helena right in the middle of the Atlantic

He had a court there and wasn't alone. But in the meantime it has been proven that Napoleon must have been poisoned with arsenic, as his hair shows regular great doses of it that seem to coincide with certain seizures he had. Also his body was suprisingly well preserved after 20 years in the ground. Despite popular belief, he did not die because of his own stomach problems, but because someone helped him a little.

After Napoleon, Louis XVIII comes to the throne. Louis XVI being the king who was decapitated and his son Louis (would-be XVII) who was also killed. Out of respect they called the next king not 'XVII' but 'XVIII'. After this come a few others, until 1848 when they decide on the republic for ever due to enriching Louis-Philippe. (the public uprisings surrounding this from the 1830s are featured in Les Misérables). The first president was also an emperor. Elected in 1848, the nephew of Napoleon declares himself emperor in 1852 and reigns until 1870 when they ship him off to England where he dies about 3 years later.

Since then, nothing but presidents.

Despite all this, though, the French are still incredibly nostalgic about their kings. The times of Louis XIII (the times of d'Artagnan, revisited in Cyrano de Bergerac 50 years later) are very much idealised, the times of Louis XIV, the times of the French Revolution,... It is strange, but they do not demonise any of it, despite the fact that they actualy murdered their king. If anything, they a little ashamed of the terror that went on, but are also proud of their accomplishment as first republic in the modern world. I have the impression that they like that kind of figure and also want a president like a king. Mitterand who has a bastard daughter (?)... Who cares? He is in the Elysées! He is allowed to do that kind of thing. Louis XIV had about 20 bastard children. And now Sarkozy who has a wife during his presidential campaign, divorses her as soon as he has become president, meets an Italian model-singer, marries her shortly after and behold: she receives Russian president Medvedev in a figure hugging dress with bare back, without bra! The modern king and queen no less. What the guy does in his presidential function and how he governs the country only interests half of the people.

03-09-2010, 04:56 PM
was the Swedish dentist taht has proved that Napoleon had been poisoned:D

03-09-2010, 11:52 PM
I know about his last days because of the historical travel memoir, The Black Room at Longwood, an excellent and original work--but what I meant, by *hazy* is that 19th century French politics remain somewhat beyond my grasp. Names and dates don't really fix this up, nor do its writers, whether it is Hugo, or Balzac, or Zola, and especially not Dumas. I read a bit of TTM, not all of them, but they are basically nobility romances, and I have more affection for The Count, but beyond that I don't get the emotional investment, the revolutionary demonizing of Marie, which was somewhat unfair, and the equal demonizing of the pro-Bonaparteans, or whatever term you like. Maybe Napoleon was a little ahead of his time on the hegemony issue, or maybe not, in light of recent EU follies. Beats me. :)

03-10-2010, 05:23 PM
The problem is with Dumas that he seemed to think that anyone surely knew what he was addressing. Probably it was like that... He took numerous refernces from works like memoires and publications of letters... He must have presumed everyone read them or so, because he goes in quite a lot of detail, athough he sometimes permits himself a liberty of about 10 to 20 years...

I see what you mean about The Three Musketeers. Dumas idealised the world of Louis XIII and made it a world where boys plaid their games (read: fought with real swords with their lives at stake...) and where the king 'got bored' on the very battlefield :rolleyes:. Still, I find mainly The Vicomte (the three last parts of the Musketeer-books) very entertaining because it sheds a light on what actually went on at court and how people tried to discover things about one another. How the queen tries to find out for her daughter-in-law who the mistress of the king really is... And the stories that are told with clearly implying certain people, but not really... I find that amazingly thrilling. Not because of what is happening, but to see how devious people are and how they try to cover things up :D. Mind you, people were not only so devious that you can laugh at it and no more. Madame, the wife of Monsieur (the brother of Louix XIV; they both features in The Vicomte and she is briefly Louis's mistress) actually got poisoned by her husband (who was probably homosexual) because he was so jealous. Scary...

But, yes, The Count is a more interesting topic than the romantic escapades of Louis XIV...

Still, I'll have to start on his books on the French revolution... Which is the first one? The Countess de Charny or The Queen's Necklace?