Grandpa is resisting: why did the death of Louis de Funès change the film?

The cult comedy “Papy fait de la resistance” by Jean-Marie Poiré adapted from the eponymous play was to have Louis de Funès as headliner. Unfortunately, the actor died of a heart attack shortly after giving his consent.

Grandpa resists: from the play to the film

In 1983, the comedy Grandpa resists produced by Jean-Marie Poire released in French cinemas. This is the adaptation of the successful eponymous play created by Martin Lamotte and Christian Keyboard in 1981. Set during World War II, in occupied Francethe feature film is a satire featuring Nazis, collaborators, and resistance fighters.

Gérard Jugnot – Grandpa resists © Studiocanal

The Bourdelle family finds itself confronted by the Germans when their mansion is requisitioned by the Wermacht. But the Nazi leaders are unaware that Guy-Hubert Bourdelle, the son of the family, is in fact the elusive french vigilante known as the “Super-Résistant”, wanted by German troops.

The film has a false ending : as it seems to be ending, a parody of the debate program “Les Dossiers de l’screen” devoted to the period of the Occupation, is broadcast. It brings together several protagonists of the film, now elderly.

Despite its share of bad reviews, Grandpa resists is a box office success. Indeed, it has accumulated more than four million admissions (the seventh biggest hits of 1983).

Doing without Louis de Funès

Quickly after the success of the play, a film adaptation germinated in the minds of Christian Clavier and Martin Lamotte. As for Santa Clause is garbage, it is Jean-Marie Poiré who is approached to direct it. And it’s the producer Christian Fechner who agrees to produce it.

The latter, very close to Louis de Funes since Wing or thigh, imposes it to hold the top of the poster. Very popular, it would indeed ensure a success in theaters, which would amortize the large budget of the film (30 million francs). The actor, having enjoyed the play, gives his agreement in principle and already proposes axes of interpretation of Ludwig von Apfelstruder. He nevertheless asks that his role be reduced so as not to tire his heart, already weakened by two heart attacks. Unfortunately, only three weeks after having attended the performance of the play, Louis de Funès died on January 27, 1983 of a new heart attack.

Despite the disappearance of his friend, Christian Fechner decides to continue with the film Grandpa resists. To compensate for the absence of Louis de Funès (his role had not yet been chosen) and all the same to attract the spectators, Fechner decides to line up an all-star cast. Thus, even the supporting roles are held by known actors. We can cite in particular Gerard Jugnot, Jacques Villeret, Michael Galabru or Jacqueline Maillan. The stars of Le Splendid are also present, alongside Jugnot and Clavier: Michael White, Josiane Balasko, Thierry Lhermitte and Bruno Moynot.

Thierry Lhermitte in Grandpa resists
Thierry Lhermitte in Grandpa resists © Studiocanal

Dedicated to his memory

Jean-Marie Poiré had declared that if Louis de Funès had not given his agreement, they would not have started writing it:

As soon as Fechner had the agreement in principle of de Funès, we started to find ideas for him. (…) We talked non-stop about what we were going to do for Louis, and we talked about ideas.

Regarding the role that would have been assigned to him, the testimonies of the three screenwriters diverge. They evoke the role of “Grandpa”, mentioned in the play, that of Ludwig von Apfelstruder, or that of an old “hairy” anti-German living on the Bourdelle property.

On release, the film is dedicated to the memory of Louis de Funès.

Grandpa is resisting: why did the death of Louis de Funès change the film?