Four years after the 70s of All the Money in the World, Ridley Scott goes back a little further in time, heading to the Middle Ages, the bloody theater of his new opus: The Last Duel. A title which obviously echoes that of his first feature film, Les Duellistes, and returns to a true story.
That of the last judicial duel to have taken place in France, between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, when the wife of the first accused the second of rape. Divided into three parts, each centered on a point of view (like Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon), the feature film is carried by Adam Driver and Jodie Comer, as well as Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who co-wrote the screenplay with Nicole Holofcener (All About Albert).
And it is alongside Jodie Comer and Ridley Scott that the co-writer spoke of this cruel film but very current in its way of referring to the questions of the #MeToo era, during a press conference given in Paris.
AlloCiné: How do you feel about presenting the film in Paris, a few kilometers from the places where the events took place?
Jodie comer : It makes it even more special. Even more unique.
Nicole holofcener : Especially when we see Notre Dame, which is under construction in our film.
The film is divided into three parts. In the first two, the character of Marguerite is seen through the eyes of men, while the third follows her point of view. How much of a challenge has that been in your approach to and working with the role of Jodie?
Jodie Comer: There hasn’t been a particularly difficult chapter for me. But the real challenge was that we shot the different versions simultaneously, so we went from the story of Le Gris to that of Carrouges, and so on. So I needed a little time to really focus on what we were doing (laughs)
Nicole Holofcener: “Do I hate my husband there? Or do I love him?” (laughs)
Jodie Comer: Here is ! It was full of contradictions. But we talked to each other a lot, to make sure we got it right.
We wanted the two versions of the assault scene to be similar, but have a few differences, as we are following two separate points of view (Nicole Holofcener)
Tell us about the writing of these three parts Nicole. You specified in the press kit that you were hired for your gaze and your female voice, how did you approach the part centered on Marguerite?
Nicole Holofcener: Thanks to the book [dont le film s’inspire]. And research. Eric Jager’s book is very detailed in regards to Marguerite’s case, so by adding my research and imagination to it, I was able to determine what she would think and the types of things she would do. We wanted her to be competent, maybe even more than her husband. I mostly wrote his part, but we collaborated a lot with Matt and Ben, so much so that it’s hard to pinpoint who exactly did what. I wrote less in their respective parts than in Marguerite’s, but working together was a lot of fun.
By having a second and third part that are quite similar in terms of writing, weren’t you afraid of losing the viewer?
Nicole Holofcener: We wanted the two versions of the assault scene to be similar, but have a few differences, because we’re following two different points of view. But there is no ambiguity: there is indeed the rape of Marguerite. Do we then have to show it once? Twice ? And how long should the scene last? In my opinion, it had to be shown twice, to get the points of view of Le Gris and Marguerite.
Ridley scott : It’s important to show Le Gris’s point of view. Because for him, it’s the same thing. He doesn’t tell the difference.
Jodie Comer: This is particularly what attracted me. There was not to be any change in the dialogues, everything had to go through the acting. So we had conversations before shooting the scenes, because the changes are very nuanced, very light. For me, as an actress, it was a very playful role. It was nice to have that freedom when it came to trying out different variations. But it was confusing at times, too. When you arrive on a project, you know your character’s intentions and motivations, without having to worry about the expectations of others. But there, yes, and it was interesting to do so.
How did you prepare for these Jodie scenes?
Jodie Comer: They were very secure, and I felt strangely relaxed. I knew I was in good hands with Ridley and the team. Everyone knew how sensitive these scenes were, we had a duty to protect each other. Adam and I had a lot of respect for each other, but we didn’t talk about it enough.
I do remember, however, that the day before we shot the rape scene, we went to the set with Ridley to study physicality. Not the diaolgues, just the placements. That way we were able to shoot it in three takes. And I have to express my deep respect for Ridley: when we finished the premiere, he immediately asked everyone to leave their things and leave the room, so that we could talk about the scene for five to ten minutes. and see if there are things we wanted to explore more or change. It was very respectful.
What is remarkable about Adam Driver for you?
Jodie Comer: I find it incredibly spontaneous. He has very little fear, so you never really know what you’re going to get from him. But I like it because it has an energy that is constantly visible. He’s also incredibly charismatic, and that goes with the character of Le Gris. Even the first time I saw the movie, I thought I actually liked this guy. The chemistry between him and Ben on screen is phenomenal. I’m a big fan of Adam, if you haven’t noticed (laughs)
Nicole Holofcener: You just need to see him smile. It was a little miracle to have him for this role, but it was Ridley who cast him.
Ridley Scott: No. In general, when I prepare a film, my main investment lies in the choice of all the actors. But Adam was chosen by the two writers. It was also Matt who suggested the project to me, telling me: “You already did The Duelists. Do you want to do another one? “ He then explained to me what it would be about and I did not see why I could refuse the offer of Matt and Ben.
I make it a point of honor to choose everyone, because everyone is as important as the others in my eyes. I also try to have inventive people. I love it when an actor comes up with something I hadn’t thought of.
I have the feeling that The Last Duel could have been done twenty years ago, when the #MeToo movement did not yet exist, and that it would send the same message (Nicole Holofcener)
It says in the movie that there is no justice. Just the power of men. But we see that despite the fair fight of women and improvements in society, homophobia, sexism, anti-Semitism and racism are resisting. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
Ridley Scott: It is necessary to be optimistic. Even when times are tough and dark. Things move slowly – or not fast enough – but when we make a movie like this, it goes into the process.
Nicole Holofcener: I have a feeling that The Last Duel could have been done twenty years ago, when the #MeToo movement did not yet exist, and that it would send the same message. We did not write it because it seemed relevant to the present day. We did it because it was a really good story. Who is relevant no matter what.
Ridley Scott: Relevant and universal.
Jodie Comer: That’s what I find powerful about making a movie. We tackle sensitive questions, which make uncomfortable, and I know, of people who evolve in the same circles as me and who have seen the film, which it allows to create debates. So the conversations are already there.
Your first feature film was called “Les Duellistes”. This one is called “The Last Duel”. How are you interested in dueling Ridley?
Ridley Scott: I do duels every day of my life. With the studio, the producers for money matters … It’s my job. If you can’t handle the stress, don’t do my job. But I have a funny history with France: when I came to shoot Les Duellistes here, I was told “Is this a sex movie? With Brigitte Bardot? Michael Winner? No? It’s okay then.”
Is that why you shot again in the South of France, and not in Normandy where the action takes place?
Ridley Scott: I was 40 when I made my first film. And when I read the novel that became this screenplay, I was only thinking of that part of France, in which I shot forty years ago. That has changed a lot. There have been a lot of improvements since I shot Les Duellistes.
Interview by Maximilien Pierrette and Olivier Pallaruelo on September 24, 2021 in Paris