How did you approach the adaptation of Blueberry for cinema? I never wanted to literally transpose the comic strip, nor create a classic Western, even if Iâve watched about 70 or 80 to learn the rules of the genre and make an epic film which carries the audience away.
Iâd read the Blueberry cartoon books and I said âOk, weâre not going to distort that, weâre going to take it, play around with it and create something elseâ. I needed to forget the cartoon strip to be able to set the creative process in motion.
Actually during filming, I sometimes totally forgot it was Blueberry I was adapting. The secret experiment in the film is Mike Blueberryâs attempt to reconcile the two worlds, the Western world that he represents and the Indian world where he spent part of his childhood. To do this, he embarks on an initiatory quest, living an adventure within his very self that will change him forever. It is an episode that MÃ¶bius himself could have written.
But everything that happened, happened with Jean Giraudâs agreement of course; even if I had taken lots of liberties with the character I needed Jean to accept my contribution. I made him read the filmâs script and I asked him to be sincere in sharing his comments. If there had been the slightest problem with it, all the characterâs names would have been changed so Jean didnât feel betrayed.How do you perceive Mike Blueberryâs character?
Blueberry is a guy who works for the army, the law, the police â a sheriff, heâs a police officer really â but besides that heâs a bit odd, he has always been a little bit on the fringe of things.
I like his indiscipline, how heâs capable of refusing a mission, of disobeying orders.
He has real independent spirit and yet profound discontentment at the same time; you sense he has a heavy past which is all in the great tradition of a western hero.Heâs quite a free character when you think of the era and the context heâs in, deep down he has a strong soul.Several script writers worked with you on the script. How did this writing phase come about?
At the start, producer Thomas Langmann suggested teaming up with GÃ©rard Brach, a faithful collaborator of Roman Polanski.
I thought this was an excellent idea. Me and GÃ©rard got on really well, I was staggered by his way of working; he masters technique sufficiently well to be able to totally forget it and at the same time he leaves a huge amount of room for intuition in his way of writing, it seems to me that his thoughts weave intricate patternsâ¦On meeting him â we worked together for a year â I abandoned a lot of received ideas on the scriptâs unimaginative side.
However, on tackling shamanism we hit a stumbling block, it was a subject that neither of us knew much about. I realised that despite everything Iâd read about it, I didnât have enough accurate knowledge of what a shaman is on a daily basis.
I had to do some research. From that point on I continued my research alone by going to meet shamans in Mexico and Peruâ¦ During each of these trips I discovered new realities which transformed my perception of things and helped feed the script.Afterwards scriptwriters Matt Alexander, GÃ©rard Brach and David Scinto got involved with the writing aspectâ¦Why did you introduce this shamanic dimension into Blueberryâs universe?
Because in the world we live in, we tend to say that only one reality exists.
I wanted to challenge this received idea by showing another reality, the reality explored by Indians. Our culture masters the material dimension well but not so much the spiritual dimension.
For the Indians itâs almost the opposite; their culture broaches fundamental questions like nature, reality or consciousness in a sophisticated way, which makes us appear like primitives in comparison!Did you show the shamans the images of the visions you had tried out for yourself?
First of all I gave them the drawings I had had done. They could identify their universe in them perfectly, sometimes they commented on certain details that needed to be exact and that to them werenât accurate. Then I showed them the film, they authenticated it and we recorded shamanic songs specific to each scene.
Saying that, my ambition wasnât to stick too closely to shamanic reality. As itâs a fiction film I allowed myself poetic licence and invented a lot of things.The movie was filmed in English. Had there been talk of producing it in French?
For this type of film English seemed the obvious language; it wouldnât be logical to film the western in French. I wrote it in French, we then had the script translated and adapted with me perfecting my English at the same time.
In fact, working in English didnât cause me any problems because I had produced a lot of adverts in Anglo-Saxon countries in the past.The casting reserves a surprise in that you have a small part in the film?
I had said that I should play the part of village idiot, I was told jokingly, no problem, Mexico is teeming with themâ¦ so I said, âOk, Iâll do it, Iâm a frustrated actorâ¦â Thatâs how I found myself playing a small part in the film. People who werenât involved in the film who came on set at that moment were really surprised, wondering who this guy was, this tramp who dared speak to the actors and nobody stopping himâ¦
Today Iâm an overjoyed actor as Iâve played opposite Vincent Cassel, Michael Madsen, Ernest Borgnine and Juliette Lewis but also two shaman: Maria Pastan Biri and Kestenbetsa to whom I have dedicated this film!