The making of the movie, Jappelou

 

A sort of

 

“Rocky”

 

set in the  

 

equestrian world

 

“The film is everything I hoped it would be: a sporting adventure based on a powerful human story. Great challenges, wonderful characters, a dash of humor and a lot of emotion. And it is visually gorgeous,” says Guillaume Canet who wrote the script and plays the lead in the French blockbuster, Jappeloup.

 

1,7 million moviegoers had seen Jappeloup within just a month of its release in France. Based on the life and career of the sportsman Pierre Durand and his horse, Jappeloup, the story is set in the early 1980s when Durand abandoned a promising legal career and threw himself into his true passion; showjumping. With his father’s backing, he gambled everything on a young horse who no one else had any faith in. Too small, too stubborn, too impetuous, Jappeloup had many faults but nonetheless a remarkable jumping ability. From competition to competition, the pair improved and began to make their mark on the show jumping world. But the Los Angeles Olympic Games were a disaster and Pierre had to face up to his shortcomings. That would eventually change around. With the help of his wife Nadia and groom Raphaëlle, Pierre regained Jappeloup’s confidence and built a relationship that took them to victory in the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

When did you first get involved with this project?

A long time back. I knew the story of Jappeloup was very filmic, but since I’d given up horse riding in my private life, it didn’t get me particularly excited. One day, Mario Luraschi left me a message to say he wanted to introduce me to his friend, the producer Pascal Judelewicz. Pascal was passionate about this subject and had dreamt of making it into a film since 1995. His enthusiasm impressed me, and eventually won me over.

Was it him who asked you to write the screenplay?

He wore me down! I had planned to ease off the gas and dedicate myself to my child. But he knew I was fascinated by the subject and that I was caught up in it. Thinking that I could quickly pass the project over to another writer, I wrote 10 pages. Then one thing led to another, I wrote some full sequences, then started to write the dialog, and so on. After a fortnight, I realized I was going to write the whole screenplay. I only had four months to finish it.

Did you remain true to Pierre Durand’s real-life story?

That was the intention, because this incredible story contained everything to make a great film. Like all young people who were into riding at the time, I followed the exploits of Jappeloup, notably at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. But reading the book by Karine Devilder – Pierre Durand’s sister-in-law – I learned a lot more. And the videos that I subsequently watched reminded me just how exceptional that little horse was. The whole chronology of the competitions is accurate. Beyond that, I wanted to inject some more personal elements into the script because there are some similarities between Pierre Durand’s riding career and mine. The decision to quit competition, despite a father’s passion, was not unfamiliar to me.

Is that what happened to you?

Yes. My father had a stud farm. He took on a huge amount of debt to build up his company. At 18, it was very hard for me to tell him that I was throwing it all in to become an actor. But I’d had a serious riding accident, and I no longer had that burning desire to win. It was the fear of getting hurt combined with the desire to see new horizons other than country stables. All I was interested in was going to Paris, and girls. So in the film I wanted to tackle the issue of whether returning to competition to please your father is necessarily a bad thing.

Was there ever any question of you directing the film ?

No, because I immediately knew that if I was going to be involved in the project as an actor, I would resume training so that I could do all the riding scenes myself. That was a major undertaking and I wanted to dedicate myself totally to it. I also had total confidence in Christian Duguay, an accomplished horseman himself, and a former member of the Canadian equestrian team. We clicked right away because we shared the same vision of the story, and wanted to tackle it the same way. It wasn’t easy for Christian, who had to start preparation for the film before the script was finished. As the writing progressed, I fed him pages to give him something to work on.Jappeloup - a French legend

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