Tonight on Arte is broadcast the film Papillon (1973) with Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen in the title role, that of Henri Charrière alias Papillon. Discover the true story of this former convict who inspired cinema.
In 1931, a Frenchman was sentenced at the age of 21 to hard labor for life in a prison in Cayenne, French Guiana, for the murder of a pimp-butcher whom he had always denied having committed. Famous convict, renowned for his escapes, the one who is called Henri Charrière, but who is nicknamed Papillon (because of a tattoo he wears on the shoulder), released in 1969 a fictionalized autobiography entitled Papillon. This book on his life as a thug, which has become a bestseller with more than 10 million copies sold across the globe, quickly interested Hollywood studios. In 1973, Franklin J. S. Schaffner’s Butterfly (Planet of the Apes), a beautiful and heart-wrenching thirst for freedom film starring Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen, hit theaters. The actor Steve McQueen, in the title role (a role which was once imagined for Jean-Paul Belmondo), expresses in turn on the screen the suffering, the madness and the loneliness of this character. In 2018, the story of this man with an extraordinary destiny is once again transposed on the big screen with Charlie Hunnam, in Butterfly, and Rami Malek. A role for which the actor Charlie Hunnam gave of his person since he remained five days in a cell without eating, and without speaking.
It was in French Guyana that convict Henri Charrière (born in 1906 and died in 1973), son of teachers from Ardèche, was assigned as a nurse’s aide at the André-Bouron colonial hospital. Anyone who joined the navy at a younger age, after being an orphan at age 11 and looting a few safes, will take advantage of this post to drink the stories of inmates and their escapades. His escape from prison, he tried in 1934 … before finding himself imprisoned again in Santa Marta in Colombia. In total, he will attempt eight escapes before making a success of his coup after twelve years in prison. During these times of back and forth in prisons, Henri Charrière would have multiplied the meetings, including that with the Guajiros Indians, a tribe of fishermen who opened their arms to him. In 1941, the man therefore escaped for good from Devil’s Island and joined Venezuela, where a few years later, the authorities in Caracas put an end to his run by offering him nationality and where he met his last. companion Rita Alcover. Pardoned in 1970 by the Ministry of Justice, the former mobster moved with his wife to southern Spain. In 1971, he became an actor and played alongside Claudia Cardinale in the film Popsy Pop. Henri Charrière died at the age of 66 from throat cancer in Madrid.
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