Making 'Cyrano' was an 'act of defiance in the face of the bleak circumstances' (exclusive)

·Contributor
·3-min read

Watch: Cyrano director Joe Wright explains the film's relevance to 2022

With Cyrano, Joe Wright’s new musical version of classic romance Cyrano de Bergerac, hitting UK cinemas on 25 February the director of Darkest Hour and Atonement has revealed why it’s very much a story for now.

The film, which stars Peter Dinklage in the title role, is based on the 19th century play about the swordsman with the heart of a poet who constantly conceals his love for Roxanne (Haley Bennett), but uses his gift for words to help Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jnr) in his efforts to woo her.

Speaking to Yahoo alongside Dinklage and Harrison, Wright described how he had been working on the script for some time when the pandemic struck and gave him the impetus to get it made.

Read more: Cyrano is more than 'a guy with a big nose'

“I’d been in lockdown for four or five months like everybody else and I was starved of human connection,” he recalled. Cyrano de Bergerac

Director Joe Wright on the set of Cyrano (MGM/Universal Pictures)
Director Joe Wright on the set of Cyrano (MGM/Universal Pictures)

“After two or three years of developing the screenplay, I thought that now was the time to do it, as an act of defiance in the face of the bleak circumstances we found ourselves in. To try and make something that was beautiful about love, about human connection felt appropriate.”

Kelvin Harrison Jnr had a similar reaction when he read the script for the first time.

“I got it when I was sitting in my apartment in the middle of the pandemic and I was away from my family, my loved ones and my friends,” he remembered.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. stars as Christian in Joe Wright’s Cyrano (Universal Pictures/MGM)
Kelvin Harrison Jr. stars as Christian in Joe Wright’s Cyrano (Universal Pictures/MGM)

“So it was beautiful to be able to travel to shoot the film and have a ‘family’ with Peter, Joe, Erica, Haley and Ben [Mendelsohn] and live together in this beautiful town in Sicily and make a love story. I think that love we felt can be transferred to everyone watching and connect with the people that we care about. We’ve been separate for so long and it’s refreshing and it’s necessary.”

Edmond Rostand’s original play was written 120 years ago. Frequently performed on stage and screen, including film versions with Gerard Depardieu and Steve Martin in the lead, this new approach comes from Erica Schmidt, who wrote the off-Broadway production of Cyrano and then adapted it for the film.

Peter Dinklage stars as Cyrano in Joe Wright’s Cyrano (Universal Pictures/MGM)
Peter Dinklage stars as Cyrano in Joe Wright’s Cyrano (Universal Pictures/MGM)

Emmy award-winner Dinklage sees this 'stripped down' version as more relevant to today’s audiences. “It’s a chamber piece for three or four characters and it turned the long pontifications of love that Cyrano gives into songs,” he said.

Read more: Dinklage: 'I've had stares my whole life'

“I thought that way of updating it was very clever, but Erica kept the heart of the piece intact, so things like the balcony scene have remained unchanged. She’s done a very clever trick of updating a classic almost without you realising.”

Originally due to open in January, Cyrano had its UK release delayed by six weeks because of the surge in omicron variant cases. It is nominated for four BAFTAs and an Oscar.

Cyrano is released in cinemas on 25 February. Watch a trailer below.

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