How many times has

Romeo and Juliet

been adapted for the screen?

80 times.

The Three Musketeers


30 times.

Madame Bovary


Dangerous Liaisons


Les Misérables…

So many classics embodied, more or less faithfully and above all, more or less successful.

For screenwriter Philippe Lasry, who co-directs the screenplay department of Fémis (the national school for image and sound professions), one of the keys to this success lies in the right choice of the work to be adapted. : “The story, regardless of the epoch in which it takes place, must have an echo for the public who will receive the film. The question that any director, producer, screenwriter asks himself upstream is: how is this contemporary? Over the theme is contemporary, the more the public will appreciate it "So modern,


, Emile Zola's novel published in 1885 (of which

20 Minutes

 is a partner of the serial adaptation, currently on the Salto platform)?

"A book that talks about protest, anger, small destinies facing the powers, yes, that makes sense in France today," says Philippe Lasry.

The big gap

Another question raised: within what limit do we allow ourselves to betray the original work?

Between the volumes of the saga

L'Amie prodigieuse

by Elena Ferrante and its serial adaptation (broadcast since 2019 by Canal + then France 2), there is only one step: the dialogues, the sequence of scenes like the profusion of characters are respected.

The same goes for “Cyrano de Bergerac”, by Jean-Paul Rappeneau (1990).

Others, on the contrary, make the big difference, like "La Belle personne" by Christophe Honoré (passion between a student and her teacher in the walls of the Lycée Henri IV in Paris in 2007) inspired by

La Princesse de Clèves

by Madame de Lafayette (same passion, but in the court of Henri II, in the 17th century) or even the “Romeo + Juliet” by Baz Luhrmann (1996), with Léonardo di Caprio.

“To detach from the classic, to install it in another era or sometimes in another place, it is a bias which does not augur at all that the film will be bad, underlines Philippe Lasry, who also quotes“ Sex intentions? ?

»(1999), from

Les Liaisons Dangereuses


To adapt a work, you have to find an angle, and finding an angle is necessarily betrayal.


To make choices

Not to mention that the time of the novel is not that of the film.

"When the 19th century classic allows itself 100 pages of description in the preamble, the film will go straight to the heart of the matter," continues the screenwriter.

You have to make choices, you can't deal with all the plots and all the characters.

And it all also depends on the destination format: a film, a series?

Once these scriptwriting choices have been made, it remains to write and direct the film well, which is a whole different story.


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