The Special Way Papillon Filmed That Helped Charlie Hunnam And Rami Malek's Performances

Rami Malek Charlie Hunnam Papillon Sitting On A Bench

Because of the nature of film production, shooting in sequence is a fairly rare thing. After all, it makes way more sense to shoot as much as you can in one location before moving on instead of going back and forth between scenes. Some movies are an exception, however, and one new one is director Michael Noer's Papillon, as I recently learned from one of the film's stars, Rami Malek:

We were fortunate in this film to do something you rarely do, shoot in sequence. So we got to kind of chart the evolution of these characters as we went on. And so the damage that they took day in and day out I think affected us in a certain way.

Rami Malek and Charlie Hunnam discussed their work on Papillon at length earlier this month during the Los Angeles press day for the film, and during our conversation Malek explained the benefits of the movie shooting all of the material from the beginning to the end of the script in order. While discussing the tough production, the actor noted that the stress and exertion of the entire filming experience actually added to the character work, as he was being worn down much like his character was, and it came through in the performance.

Putting in his two cents on the matter, Charlie Hunnam noted that one area in which the sequential shooting was very beneficial was in the physical transformation of the characters. In the movie, based on a true story, Hunnam and Malek play Henri 'Papillon' Charrière and Louis Dega: two men who, in the 1930s, were sentenced to imprisonment in a labor camp in South America. Despite their attempts to escape, they were kept incarcerated for years, and it obviously had a toll on their appearance. Hunnam explained how filming Papillon in chronological order was ultimately very helpful for this part of the process, saying,

I think the physical transformation is essential to telling this story, there having been a sort of a visual transformation as well as the psychological one. That's where I think it became essential to shoot this sequentially. We lost a lot of weight, but you know, we did what we could. But it always feels like it's not quite enough in terms of putting oneself in that experience.

It was a lot of hard work, but it pays off, as both Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek put on fantastic performances in Papillon, taking on the respective roles played by Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in the 1973 original. Depending on what market you live in, you can see the film for yourself now, as it is currently out in theaters in limited release.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.