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Papillon (1973)

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A man befriends a fellow criminal as the two of them begin serving their sentence on a dreadful prison island, which inspires the man to plot his escape.

Writers:

Dalton Trumbo (screenplay), Lorenzo Semple Jr. (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
1,627 ( 378)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Steve McQueen ... Henri 'Papillon' Charriere
Dustin Hoffman ... Louis Dega
Victor Jory ... Indian Chief
Don Gordon ... Julot
Anthony Zerbe ... Toussaint
Robert Deman Robert Deman ... Maturette
Woodrow Parfrey ... Clusiot
Bill Mumy ... Lariot
George Coulouris ... Dr. Chatal
Ratna Assan ... Zoraima
William Smithers ... Warden Barrot
Val Avery ... Pascal
Gregory Sierra ... Antonio
Vic Tayback ... Sergeant (as Victor Tayback)
Mills Watson ... Guard
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Storyline

A semi-fictional account of Henri Charrière's time in the penal system in French Guyana - some of it spent on infamous Devil's Island - is presented. It's the early 1930s. Charrière - nicknamed Papillon because of his butterfly tattoo - and Louis Dega are two among many who have been convicted in the French judicial system, they now being transferred to French Guyana where they will serve their time, never to return to France even if they are ever released. A safe-cracker by criminal profession, Papillon is serving a life sentence for murdering a pimp, a crime for which he adamantly states he was framed. Dega is a wealthy counterfeiter, who expects his well-to-do wife eventually to get him released. On Papillon's initiative, Papillon and Dega enter into a business arrangement: Papillon will provide protection for Dega, while Dega will finance Papillon's escape attempt. As Papillon and Degas' time together lasts longer than either expects, their burgeoning friendship ends up being an ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Two men with nothing in common but a will to live and a place to die See more »

Genres:

Biography | Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official site

Country:

France | USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

19 December 1973 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Papillon See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$12,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$53,267,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (magnetic prints)| Mono (optical prints)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although many considered this Steve McQueen's best performance to date, he was overlooked by the Academy. Some say that was because McQueen had "stolen" Ali MacGraw (who became his second wife) from her husband Robert Evans, who was a powerful studio executive at the time. McQueen was also rumored to have slept with many other Hollywood wives. Others say McQueen's Oscar snub was because the actor, in rather coarse language, once told the Golden Globes committee he would accept an award if he won, but would never consider going to the ceremony. He did, however, receive a Golden Globe Best Actor nomination. See more »

Goofs

Newer prints, with improved resolution and brighter tone reveal that the leader of the leper colony's mouth isn't moving at the end of the "cigar" conversation, when he talks to McQueen. See more »

Quotes

Warden Barrot: Put all hope out of your mind. And masturbate as little as possible, it drains the strength!
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Alternate Versions

The Spanish version has several cuts during the film due to censorship reasons, including Alfred Dreyfus scene on Devil's Island. This version also includes a song called "Toi qui regardes la mer" that appears during the end credits with music by Jerry Goldsmith and sung by the French singer Nicoletta. See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Island of Fire (1990) See more »

Soundtracks

Ballet Music from Faust
(uncredited)
Music by Charles Gounod
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

An amazing true story gets a pretty good film treatment.
26 December 2003 | by barnabyrudgeSee all my reviews

The true story of Henri Charriere (nicknamed "Papillon" because of his butterfly tattooed chest), a Frenchman falsely accused of murder and sent to French Guiana's inescapable penal colony. Charriere spent years trying to escape from this mosquito-ridden, malaria-prone hellhole, but every attempt somehow went awry. On many occasions, the recaptured Charriere was sent into solitary confinement and only survived thanks to his incredible mental strength. Ultimately, the authorities lost hope of taming his urge to break out, so they abandoned him on Devil's Island, a tiny land mass where guards were not needed since the constantly ferocious surrounding sea was ample deterent for any would-be escapees.

Franklin J. Schaffner directs this film quite well, capturing the appalling prison conditions vividly and getting a wonderful, multi-layered performance from Dustin Hoffman as Charriere's friend, convict Louis Dega. However, McQueen struggles with the demands of the lead role. Yes, he's physically accurate in the part and during the escape sequences he looks convincing. However, during the quieter moments, McQueen looks distinctly uncomfortable, and his natural "cool" persona doesn't equate with the humiliated, tormented character he is supposed to be playing. The subsidiary characters are great, especially the guy with the tattooed face who attributes his ugly tattoos to an evening of drunkeness, and Anthony Zerbe as a grossly disfigured leper who asks Papillon to share a cigar with him.

Best sequence? Probably the one where McQueen and another escapee flee through the rainforest from some soldiers, using natural jungle-based narcotics to preserve their energy levels.


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