Interview with Alexandre Charlot and Franck Magnier, directors of BILLY AND BUDDY

November 4, 2013 | By Myriam Laville

On November 8, 2013, the French family comedy BILLY & BUDDY (Boule et Bill in French) will be released in the US.
Based on Jean Roba’s beloved comic strip, the movie recounts the misadventures of eight-year-old Billy (Boule) and his cocker spaniel, Buddy (Bill)

On this occasion, we asked a few questions to the two directors, Alexandre Charlot and Franck Magnier.

French Culture : Was adapting such a successful comic-strip challenging?  How did you manage to work on the script?

Alexandre Charlot and Franck Magnier : Of course. We were screenwriters for Astérix at the Olympic Games, but the experience had been somewhat frustrating for us. Here [with Billy and Buddy], we had the ability to create our own adaptation of a comic book and control over the entire process. From writing to directing, we had full artistic direction.

As we were working on an episodic comic book composed of self contained jokes on each page, we needed to invent a story complete and original. To do this, we decided to mix our childhood memories with the world of Billy and Buddy. The plot elements where almost obvious: the new family dog, the disiquilibrium it creates, the gaffes, the quid pro quos, the seventies, the place of women in society, the place of each of us in our families…And the question which encompasses the entire film: what is family bliss?

FC : Why specifically did you choose the year 1976 for the film?

AC & FM : In 1976, we had our first dogs and were around the same age as Billy is in the film. We still have a sense of this childhood about us and that is what we hope to bring to this film. For example, the apartment building sit alone at the center of a construction site; it’s a reality of the era. Today, that no longer exists…it’s almost exotic.

FC : How did you pick the actors to play the characters, especially the parents?

AC & FM : Franck Dubosc can be very funny, but he also has the ability to act seriously while maintaining the lightness necessary for a film like this. He has a very large acting range. And he a fantastic collaborator, always listening and always ready to try something new.

For the mother, we needed a foil for the father, someone to spice things up, who could give him a hard time but also capable of tenderness. For us, Marina Foïs was an obvious choice.

And then, it was a chance to create a film couple that we had never seen before.

FC : What is more challenging, working with kids or working with dogs?

AC & FM : Working with dogs is not so hard, once you understand what you can have from them.  You take many shots, always thinking of a montage, and you speak often with the trainer. It’s a question of organization.

The most difficult task is probably filming a single child. When there are many kids, there is a “recess effect”; they create a world for themselves, and you have all the material you need. For this film, Charles Crombez was the only child in the middle of all of these adults, actors, and technicians. It was intimidating. As difficult as returning to that lightheartedness of childhood once we called “action”….

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