Presented by Dominique Besnehard on France 5, Place au cinéma this evening celebrates the 35th anniversary of the multi-Oscar-winning adaptation of the eponymous novel by Karen Blixen signed by Sydney Pollack
Greta Garbo then Audrey Hepburn considered
Out of Africa explores the memories of Danish author Karhttps: //www.premiere.fr/film/Out-of-Africaen Blixen. Three years after Tootsie’s cartoon, Sydney Pollack adapted here La Ferme africaine, an autobiographical story (written under the pseudo Isak Dinesen) in which she told of her marriage and her departure for Africa where, abandoned by her husband, she went fall in love with a freedom-loving adventurer. Blixen wrote this book in 1937, six years after leaving Kenya. Immediately, offers to bring it to the screen came to light, but the author declined them all: she had decided that none of her works would be transposed to the cinema during her lifetime. And even after his death in 1962 at the age of 77, it will take years for the institution in charge of his succession to give the green light. But once this opportunity is offered, the biggest names are jostling at the gate. David Lean and Orson Welles express their interest. Without success. A producer even tries for the occasion to get Greta Garbo out of her “retirement” after 20 years away from the big screen. But she declines just like Audrey Hepburn will do right after. For over 15 years, Out of Africa will therefore fail to find new life on the big screen. Until Sydney Pollack – already approached in the 70s in one of the adaptation projects initiated by Jessica Lange – does not seize it.
Meryl Streep tricks to win the lead role
Pollack has a very precise idea of who he wants to play Blixen: a European actress. And more specifically Jane Seymour. But Kurt Luedke who wrote the adaptation and had previously collaborated with him in 1981 on Absence of malice, has since the start another idea: Meryl Streep who has notably chained since the beginning of the 80s The Mistress of the French Lieutenant, Sophie’s Choice and The Silkwood Mystery. Pollack isn’t really excited. He obviously does not question the talent of the actress but fears that she is not sexy enough for the role. But this role, Meryl Streep wants it and informed of the reluctance of Pollack, she rushes to the auditions … with a vertiginous cleavage and a padded bra. Pollack is won over and will associate him with Robert Redford, whom he meets on this occasion for the sixth time.
Karen Blixen rare on the big screen
Before Out of Africa, only one of Karen Blixen’s novels had been brought to the cinema screen: Honor guard, published after his death and directed in 1982 by the Italian Emidio Greco with Jean-Pierre Cassel in one of the main roles. Orson Welles (who had directed for French TV An immortal story of Blixen, in 1969 where he also gave the reply to Jeanne Moreau), in the same decade, he broke his teeth on The Dreamers (written in 1934) which will remain unfinished once the first two scenes are shot due to lack of funding. One would have thought thatOut of Africa, its success in theaters and its 7 Oscars (including film, director and adaptation) would be a game-changer. Since then, only Gabriel Axel has taken hold of one of Karen Blixen’s writings with Babette’s Feast with, for him, an Oscar for best foreign film in 1988. But Bille August (Pelle the conqueror) has just announced his intention to attack Eherengard in his turn. See you in 2023 to see the results.