Cinema has always found a card to play in the classics of universal literature. This time the French cinema, which comes in a spiral of commercial successes, appeals to the most recognized swashbuckling novel in French literature: The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas. An adventure of swordsmen, intrigues, plots, religious and political conflicts, framed in the time of the reign of Louis XIII.

The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan is the first major French production of this novel in 62 years. Its production, according to the producers, “responds to a strategy by the film company Pathé Films to recover part of France’s literary, cultural and historical heritage and return to epic cinema with ambitious productions for the big screen, counterbalancing digital platforms” .

(Also read: ‘I know science can’t explain everything’: Russell Crowe)

The production takes some liberties in order to approach new audiences. It can be described as a movie halfway between the western and the adventure stories of the 80s, Indiana Jones type.

The film has a luxury cast: Eva Green (Milady de Winter), Vincent Cassel (Athos), François Civil (D’Artagnan), Romain Duris (Aramis) and Pio MarmaÏ (Porthos). It was directed by Martin Bourboulon and written and adapted by Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de la Patellière, respectively.

It premiered in Colombia this week, distributed by Cine Colombia. The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan It is the first of two installments. The second part, The Three Musketeers: MiladyIt will be released in December. EL TIEMPO had access to a talk with Vincent Cassel, one of the protagonists of it:

Do you have memories of the novel ‘The Three Musketeers’ by Alexandre Dumas?

Yes, when I was younger I accompanied my father (Jean-Pierre Cassel) to the shooting of The Three Musketeers, by Richard Lester, in which he played Louis XIII. I remember an amazing set and Michael York, Oliver Reed and other great movie figures of the time. The scale of the project impressed me, especially since I was small.

Jean-Pierre Cassel (his father) also played d’Artagnan under the direction of Abel Gance in his comedy ‘Cyrano et D’Artagnan’.

Because we are French. I, too, remember watching this crazy adaptation when I was young. Actually, this new adaptation directed by Martin Bourboulon is the first to be produced in France for a long time. Many Anglo-Saxons have taken it up again. So it’s a bit of a return to the roots.

(You may be interested in: Nicolas Cage: ‘Dracula is a monster, but he has feelings’)

(Athos) He is a tormented man, who carries on his shoulders the weight of his past, who is tormented by remorse, shame and guilt; he is a vehicle for many emotions.

What does the character of Athos represent for you? How do you perceive it?

I like him a lot, because he is the best of the musketeers. Link the different episodes of the saga of The Three Musketeers, from Dumas. He is a tormented man, who carries on his shoulders the weight of his past, who is tormented by remorse, shame and guilt; he is a vehicle for many emotions.

Unlike Porthos or d’Artagnan, Athos is trapped in a contradiction: he is energetic, because of his role, but he is overwhelmed by his torments.

Athos says that he wishes he could smile like d’Artagnan, but he can no longer be happy. He thinks he controls what happens to him. It turns out that I am older than Athos. My age had to fit the role perfectly. So I had to play with it. I like to associate a character with an animal: for me, Athos is an old wolf. So I steered the fights in that direction, remembering that his experience was superior to his performance. We also had to accurately characterize our characters in order to tell them apart, which gave each of us parameters to act on. Porthos is free; Aramis has principles, but that doesn’t stop him from being elusive. D’Artagnan is sharp and straight. And Athos has experience: he is a role model for his colleagues.

How did you prepare for this shoot, since you are used to very physical roles?

The advantage of doing this job for forty years is that you end up with a baggage: I’ve already handled weapons and ridden horses often. He just had to do it again, because every move had to be right. The first days are difficult, but then the confidence returns. Depending on whether you are shooting a western or a swashbuckler movie, the mounts are different. Athos is a true nobleman. His mount reminds us of his rank; his hand is low, near the saddle.

To what extent did the wardrobe help you embody Athos?

This is very important. We agreed with Martin and his team that Athos should be dressed in dark colours. We defined the appearance of him as we went along. We had to work with the western codes, but without falling into them. I insisted that Athos have long hair, because it allowed me to match his age and his moods, when they go to look for him after a night of love or when they are about to cut off his head. When you get a haircut, it’s a dishonor. He becomes like the others. I had just come from a shoot where I had very short hair and no mustache, so I had complete freedom to create the Athos look and I focused on that. The dark and light tint of the hair and mustache were mixed to find the look of this old, sad and tired gray wolf. From experience, I also wanted my suit to be comfortable, warm, flexible, and lightweight, because we were going to be moving around a lot outside. I also asked to wear a scarf, because I don’t mind showing my chest hair to make my character look sexy, but I didn’t want to freeze my butt off shooting at night in 5 degrees! Also, the scarf added nobility to my character, so it was perfect.

(Read also: The new Indiana Jones movie will premiere in Cannes)

There is such naturalism in the cinema that it is not so easy to speak a very literary language. In this sense, Alexandre and Matthieu’s script work seems remarkable to me.

Was it easy for you to appropriate the classic language of the film?

Yeah, we adjusted it with Martin on set. It was a constant adaptation so as not to fall into something too modern or too sophisticated. There is such naturalism in the cinema that it is not so easy to speak a very literary language. In this sense, Alexandre and Matthieu’s script work seems remarkable to me.

What is your opinion of director Martin Bourboulon?

When I asked him too many questions, he would say, “Put it straight.” That suited him very well. Martin was very confident in his script and was not trying to do anything fancy. He gave us freedom, but he always made sure that he had everything he would need in the editing process.

How would you describe your work with the other actors?

For this film it was essential that the chemistry between the actors worked. I was very curious to meet Pio Marmaï and François Civil, and I was happy to meet Romain Duris. A frank camaraderie developed between the four of them. We were like the musketeers in the movie. We did not separate. I think there was a mutual admiration between all of us. I discovered Pio and the crazy energy of him. He reminds me of Patrick Dewaere, but without the depression. Romain has always struck me as incredibly charming. He is perfect as Aramis. And who better than François Civil to interpret d’Artagnan today? He has a mad dog quality about him, intelligent and witty, with a bit of naivete, which is ideal for this role. With Eva Green, I had just spent three and a half months on another shoot and I was delighted to see her again, because I admire her so much and we get along very well. It was a pleasure meeting her again. I knew that she would be extraordinary as Milady. And ever since Louis Garrel played Godard, he’s had an incredible imagination and here he plays Louis XIII, a king who grew up too fast, who is clumsy, a little pathetic and very moving. I think he is fantastic.