How long have you been thinking about adapting Blueberry for the cinema?
Me and Jean-Michel Charlier thought about doing it as soon as the cartoon strip starting being a success.

Personally, I wanted this adaptation to be a French production. In my opinion westerns aren’t typically American, they belong to everyone. The Italians have proved this perfectly well, so why can’t we? Jean-Michel Charlier didn’t agree with me on this. He preferred leaving the cartoon strip’s adaptation to the Americans and when we got in touch with the film world it was his point of view which counted.

Unfortunately all our approaches ended in disappointment. Negotiations with Walter Hill recently went really far but the project finally foundered. It was then that I went back to my original idea of making the film in France. As I’d already known Jan Kounen for quite a while I talked to him about it.

Which actor did you originally imagine for the role of Blueberry?

At first I imagined someone who was physically faithful to the cartoon strip character. Same face, same look… I was prepared to meet hundreds of actors to unearth the right one, even if it meant working with an unknown! As Jan knows more about the realities of film production than me, he couldn’t picture doing the project without a leading name.

I really liked the initial idea of hiring Val Kilmer, not only because he physically resembled Blueberry but also for his crazy side. Then there was Willem Dafoe.. he doesn’t look anything like Blueberry but I’m sure he would have done an extraordinary job! In any case, as with Charlier at the start we were focusing on Anglo-Saxon actors, as if the part legitimately belonged to them.

Things weren’t making any headway so I started to question this approach so I went back to my original ideas about a western being something universal! At that time I had just seen Read my Lips, and I thought of Vincent Cassel who at any rate had been approached for another part. I spoke to Jan about it and he was of the same opinion as me. In fact, we had each come up with the same idea! Vincent doesn’t know the universe of Blueberry very well.

On the other hand, he’s a big fan of what I do under the name of Moebius, a world of dreams and the supernatural which in the end is fairly similar to the universe of shamanism; a subject he actually took an interest in by reading several of Carlos Castaneda’s books … beyond that, he’s an actor who acts with a lot of conviction and intensity, making him a great candidate to play Blueberry. As a result, the fact he doesn’t look anything like the character is of secondary importance….

You’ve already worked in cinema with directors like Ridley Scott, Ron Howard, James Cameron or Luc Besson. What did you get out of this new experience?
I only met the film makers you just mentioned very briefly.

I worked as a production designer on their films, a job which didn’t require me to work closely with them. In fact, up until now my most interesting cinema experience was the project to adapt Dune with Jodorowsky. Unfortunately the film never got made! I really appreciated working with René Laloux on Les Maîtres du temps. Even though I didn’t take part in writing the script or the story-board drawings me and Jan Kounen followed the project really closely.

Jan didn’t want me to, he reckoned that as I’d created the character, I should keep an external eye on the film’s development. He thought that if I intervened concretely in one way or another I would take less of a step back when giving my advice. I understood this point of view perfectly. In fact, my involvement with the script was limited to pointing out things about Blueberry’s life which didn’t match what was in the cartoon strip.

But I didn’t want to be too fussy. For example, Blueberry’s “official” biography made up by Jean-Michel Charlier doesn’t mention the years he spent with the Indians as suggested in the film’s script. Jan Kounen invented this part. As I thought it was an excellent idea there was no reason to be set against it. We’ll just say that when Jean-Michel wrote the biography he didn’t have access to this information!

I understand the need to be uncompromising when adapting literary works which are part of a cultural heritage, but I don’t think it’s the case for Blueberry!

Me and Charlier worked together in a very informal way!How would you define the film by Jan Kounen ?
The difference with this film is that we begin with a Western that takes place at the end of the 19th century and then all of a sudden, the story moves in another direction.

Jan successfully moves between the traditional framework of the genre, the theme of recurrent flashbacks in the Leone films and the same atmosphere of the two comic books which inspired the film, with something difficult to identify in cinema: an in-depth look at Shamanic visions.

It is something entirely new, which allows a return to a situation in the scenario with a look into morality, culpability, hiding and the unconscious. Extremely modern notions which are expressed in a striking way in this film. We are in the midst of a very deep shock between civilisations.

There are perhaps four or five films which deal with this subject: DANCING WITH WOLVES, for example. And BLUEBERRY is in that same vein.

Between Giraud and Moebius, which of your two facets is the most recognisable in the film?
The two are equal…which for me is really great! When I took over the series after Jean-Michel Charlier died I had already introduced this trend into my writing. I tried to give the stories some depth, particularly through symbolism; it wasn’t exactly science fiction but we weren’t far off. I’d even written a script at that time which was centred around shamanism but I’d never illustrated it. Some people accused me of betraying the spirit of Jean-Michel’s work, but they’re wrong. Were you on set during filming?

I went to Spain for the last day of filming.

There was an amazing atmosphere!

Jan was filming Blueberry’s arrival as a young man in the town of Palomito.

In this scene you briefly see a guy dressed in black from head to foot, quite a mysterious character…This character is me! By watching Jan work it didn’t take me long to realise that he was in the middle of making a great film.

He was in the grip of his passion for work!How long have you been thinking about adapting Blueberry for the cinema?
Me and Jean-Michel Charlier thought about doing it as soon as the cartoon strip starting being a success.

Personally, I wanted this adaptation to be a French production. In my opinion westerns aren’t typically American, they belong to everyone. The Italians have proved this perfectly well, so why can’t we? Jean-Michel Charlier didn’t agree with me on this. He preferred leaving the cartoon strip’s adaptation to the Americans and when we got in touch with the film world it was his point of view which counted.

Unfortunately all our approaches ended in disappointment. Negotiations with Walter Hill recently went really far but the project finally foundered. It was then that I went back to my original idea of making the film in France. As I’d already known Jan Kounen for quite a while I talked to him about it.

Which actor did you originally imagine for the role of Blueberry?

At first I imagined someone who was physically faithful to the cartoon strip character. Same face, same look… I was prepared to meet hundreds of actors to unearth the right one, even if it meant working with an unknown! As Jan knows more about the realities of film production than me, he couldn’t picture doing the project without a leading name.

I really liked the initial idea of hiring Val Kilmer, not only because he physically resembled Blueberry but also for his crazy side. Then there was Willem Dafoe.. he doesn’t look anything like Blueberry but I’m sure he would have done an extraordinary job! In any case, as with Charlier at the start we were focusing on Anglo-Saxon actors, as if the part legitimately belonged to them.

Things weren’t making any headway so I started to question this approach so I went back to my original ideas about a western being something universal! At that time I had just seen Read my Lips, and I thought of Vincent Cassel who at any rate had been approached for another part. I spoke to Jan about it and he was of the same opinion as me. In fact, we had each come up with the same idea! Vincent doesn’t know the universe of Blueberry very well.

On the other hand, he’s a big fan of what I do under the name of Moebius, a world of dreams and the supernatural which in the end is fairly similar to the universe of shamanism; a subject he actually took an interest in by reading several of Carlos Castaneda’s books … beyond that, he’s an actor who acts with a lot of conviction and intensity, making him a great candidate to play Blueberry. As a result, the fact he doesn’t look anything like the character is of secondary importance….

You’ve already worked in cinema with directors like Ridley Scott, Ron Howard, James Cameron or Luc Besson. What did you get out of this new experience?
I only met the film makers you just mentioned very briefly.

I worked as a production designer on their films, a job which didn’t require me to work closely with them. In fact, up until now my most interesting cinema experience was the project to adapt Dune with Jodorowsky. Unfortunately the film never got made! I really appreciated working with René Laloux on Les Maîtres du temps. Even though I didn’t take part in writing the script or the story-board drawings me and Jan Kounen followed the project really closely.

Jan didn’t want me to, he reckoned that as I’d created the character, I should keep an external eye on the film’s development. He thought that if I intervened concretely in one way or another I would take less of a step back when giving my advice. I understood this point of view perfectly. In fact, my involvement with the script was limited to pointing out things about Blueberry’s life which didn’t match what was in the cartoon strip.

But I didn’t want to be too fussy. For example, Blueberry’s “official” biography made up by Jean-Michel Charlier doesn’t mention the years he spent with the Indians as suggested in the film’s script. Jan Kounen invented this part. As I thought it was an excellent idea there was no reason to be set against it. We’ll just say that when Jean-Michel wrote the biography he didn’t have access to this information!

I understand the need to be uncompromising when adapting literary works which are part of a cultural heritage, but I don’t think it’s the case for Blueberry!

Me and Charlier worked together in a very informal way!How would you define the film by Jan Kounen ?
The difference with this film is that we begin with a Western that takes place at the end of the 19th century and then all of a sudden, the story moves in another direction.

Jan successfully moves between the traditional framework of the genre, the theme of recurrent flashbacks in the Leone films and the same atmosphere of the two comic books which inspired the film, with something difficult to identify in cinema: an in-depth look at Shamanic visions.