Wrongfully convicted for murder, Henri Charriere forms an unlikely relationship with fellow inmate and quirky convicted counterfeiter Louis Dega, in an attempt to escape from the notorious penal colony on Devil's Island.
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
Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman did have some difficulties, despite their determination to behave professionally toward each other. When Hoffman began one speech at breakneck speed, McQueen stopped him and said, "Less, man, less. Toss that shit out, you don't need it. Keep it simple." Another time, Hoffman invited a few close friends to watch a day's filming. McQueen had them thrown off the set. Nevertheless, Hoffman called their relationship "friendly rivalry" and later said his co-star "was a wonderful guy. Off screen, he was the nicest, classiest man. On the set itself he became very intense." Another time, however, he referred to McQueen as "that son of a bitch". See more »
At the end of the film, when Papillon is floating on his bag of coconuts, a scuba diver is clearly visible in the water beneath that bag. See more »
[to Papillon upon his release from solitary confinement after five years following his second escape attempt]
Your five years in solitary confinement are at an end. You've paid part of your debt to France.
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" How did you know I had dry leprosy? . . . . I didn't"
Henri 'Papillon' Charriere, was a lifetime inmate under the French government's harsh penal system in French Guiana. In his declining years he wrote his memoirs describing his years of incarceration, his cruel mistreatment and daring, multiple escapes. Weather or not he was the actual character of his own book, is disputed to this day. But the fact that he was an inmate is true enough and fits in with the actual site which came to be known as 'Devil's Island.' Court records indicate that Henri Charriere (Steve McQueen) later called " Papillon " which is french for Butterfly, was indeed a minor burglar and safe cracker. His claim he was innocent of murder, may be true enough, due to an unreliable source accusing him in court, yet producing little supporting evidence. Nevertheless, the infamous thief was given a twenty year sentence, which was extended due to his numerous escapes. During his imprisonment, he becomes lifelong friends with an equally famous treasury forger named Louis Dega (Dustin Hoffman). Don Gordon (a real life friend of McQueen) plays Julot, an experienced prisoner with his own intentions of escape. Anthony Zerbe is hideously interesting as Toussaint, a ravaged leper, who aids escaping prisoners. The entire film is one remarkable story and becomes an incredible journey, one which transcends the screen and offers audiences, the raw reality of life under the most severe and brutal penal systems in the world. The infamous 'Devil's Island ' today has become synonymous with a hellish place of unspeakable conditions. A fantastic movie for those in search of true-life Classic. ****
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