‘Papillon’ stars Charlie Hunnam, Rami Malek and director Michael Noer get candid about on-set chemistry, weight-loss and solidarity
'Papillon' is the epic story of Henri “Papillon” Charrière (played by Hunnam), a thief that gets framed for murder in the early 1930’s and is sentenced to life in prison.
Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek’s newest film ‘Papillon’ is one that you do not want to miss. 'Papillon' is the epic story of Henri “Papillon” Charrière (played by Hunnam), a thief that gets framed for murder in the early 1930’s and is sentenced to life in prison at the penal colony of French Guiana. There, Papillon meets Louis Dega (played my Malek) a wealthy forger who shares a similar fate. Determined to regain his freedom, Papillon forms an unlikely bond with Louis, who in exchange for protection, agrees to finance Papillon’s escape. Based off of the 1969 bestseller and the 1973 film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, this Hollywood remake is one that most certainly does the previous work justice.
At the film’s Los Angeles press day, MEAWW got to sit down with Hunnam, Malek, and director Michael Noer who spoke about all aspects of the film including the grueling preparation both actors and even the director had to endure while shooting the movie. Hunnam specifically, lost a tremendous amount of weight, an experience that was as grueling physically as it was mentally.
“There is certainly a solidarity to being hungry together on set. There were some days that I gave Michael a hard time; I don’t think necessarily I gave Rami a hard time because I knew he would give me a hard time back. Ya know, it’s a challenge to lose that much weight that quickly. And I find that it comes with this duality of quite a calm and a focus to it, and emotional consistency but then also within that, there is the odd spike of emotional inconsistency. But it is an interesting thing. I am doing it again right now, and I don’t know why the f*ck I have done this for 3 films out of 5. I lost like 25 pounds in the last 5 weeks, and I’m just starving myself again. It’s the last time I’m gonna do it.”
While many critics were concerned that the film wouldn’t live up to the classic 1973 film, director Noer stood by his choices in explaining how this film was another take on the 1969 book and not necessarily the 1973 film.
“I think that we never really felt that we were standing in the shadows of another film, we felt we were standing on the shoulders of a really, really good book, with themes that are still relevant to this date, unfortunately. I think that is what kept us going when it was raining, and everybody was hungry.”
One of the aspects of the film that truly make it great is most certainly the chemistry between Hunnam and Malek, which seemed to just come naturally to the two. Even their in-person banter was charming, making it clear these two men worked very well together. However, Hunnam isn’t one to force a relationship, and thankfully, he didn’t have to.
“I have been asked a few times about the chemistry, and how you sort of cultivate chemistry, if we did a lot of work together on the characters and stuff. I always feel like that stuff is just innate, ya know? It goes with trust too. You either like somebody, or you don't, and a lot of that is built in just the experience of going out and having dinner together, getting to know each other, getting some drinks, a walk around the city. It’s about whether or not there is an essence there between two people. That's why chemistry on all films is just unpredictable, it’s really just about if you like the mother f*cker or not.”
As one would expect, 'Papillon' is a dark film about an extremely upsetting subject matter. However, there were also fantastic moments of comedy that truly felt natural to the story. When asked about those small, humorous moments Malek explained what an integral and honest part of the film the comedy was.
"Look, there were comedy takes. Where we went off the deep end because, at one point, there was a bit of a concern. Because this was going to be SO heavy, and SO weighted at times. And that’s what people do in those circumstances anyway, that's what we were doing. Ya know, we were breaking each other's balls every day, that’s how we got through it. That exists, you try to bring levity to those dire moments, and we tried to do that as much as possible without destroying the tone of it."
Lastly, we spoke to the actors about getting into their characters, and the kind of roles they would play in the system if they ended up incarcerated in their real lives. Hunnam’s response to the question is one that we will certainly not forget.
“The same one we do in this business. Somewhat dignified prostitutes.”
‘Papillon’ opens nationwide on August 24th.