– . – French Revolution
Such is the singularly unique nature of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s vision, it’s hard to imagine him working on scripts with anyone else. Yet swiftly glance at his CV, and you’ll see that this most idiosyncratic of directors has always kept a creative collaborator close at hand. Most famously, he came to prominence with Marc Caro on 1991’s black comedy Delicatessen, having already worked with his co-director on a series of shorts. They reunited for 1995’s The City of Lost Children, working on the screenplay with Gilles Adrien (who had worked on Delicatessen and their early short The Bunker Of The Last Gunshots).
But by this point, Jeunet had already met the man who was to become an even more important significant other: Guillaume Laurant. “When we met, he was living on maybe 100 dollars a week. He was very poor,” recalls Jeunet, when we meet in London’s Soho Hotel. “At the time, he wrote a script just for the pleasure, and he wanted to sell it to me.” While Jeunet didn’t take to it, he did take to its writer. Laurant would assist on The City of Lost Children, writing dialogue, before helping Jeunet on his next film (and first without Caro), 1997’s Alien: Resurrection. “He worked on another ending, because we wrote five endings,” says the director, shuddering at the memory of one of his more troublesome projects.
So how does he compare working with Laurant to his former collaborators? “I have the feeling with Guillaume Laurant, it’s easier than previously with Marc Caro and Gilles Adrien on Delicatessen,” he says, bluntly. “Caro wasn’t a scriptwriter and Gilles Adrien did not have the same talents as Guillaume, who is very fast. Maybe because we are getting older, it’s easier now. For The City of Lost Children, I remember I needed two days to find an idea. Now it’s one hour. Really. I say ‘At two or three, I will have the idea’. It’s a challenge, but it works.”
Since Alien: Resurrection, Laurant has become Jeunet’s sole screenwriter of choice. They co-wrote Jeunet’s 2001 breakout hit Amélie (“he fought for every comma,” says the director) and then adapted Sébastien Japrisot’s novel to make WWI love story A Very Long Engagement (2004). Another adaptation—of Yann Martel’s best-selling novel Life of Pi—was their next project. Jeunet spent two years on it, writing, drawing storyboards, building models, location scouting, but eventually the estimated budget of $85 million was regarded as too high by studio Twentieth Century Fox. “At the end, I was so tired of this project I was happy to leave,” the director says. “Maybe I did the best part—to write and make the storyboards.”