Based on an acclaimed series of books by French novelist Virginie Despentes, Vernon Subutex is a Canal+ original series that centres on a Parisian record store owner who has fallen on hard times. Screened out of competition at the start of CANNESERIES 2019, it stars Romain Duris (All The Money In The World) in the title role, and the nine-part adaptation is directed and co-written by Cathy Verney.
Speaking to the MIPTV Daily News, Verney said she was attracted by “the chance to tell the story of a forgotten generation, people in their 40s who are at a stage of their lives where things haven’t worked out as expected. The heirs of the 1960s, they have experienced economic difficulties and family problems.”
At the heart of the story, is Vernon, now homeless after the wealthy friend who paid his rent dies suddenly. “He is no longer able to fulfil his passion because the end of the vinyl industry,” said Verney. “He doesn’t have a role anymore.”
Duris said the troubled record store owner “is exactly the kind of character you want to play as an actor. He has such a rich past and despite his problems hasn’t really changed internally. The music is amazing as well — it really adds another level of interest and feeds you as an actor.”
Duris is best known to international audiences as Cinquanta in Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World. But he is just as happy taking on TV roles: “I am not influenced by form. I’m more focused on story and characters. When you have a strong character like Vernon, you can enter to special relationship with viewers.”
On co-writing the series with Benjamin Dupas, Verney said: “The hardest thing about the adaptation was that the novel has so many different points of view, which is the hallmark of the way Virginie Despentes writes. It was also a challenge to create dialogue when so much of the novel is internal monologue.”
While the books have been a phenomenon in France, does she think a story about midlife crisis can appeal to a younger audience on TV? “I think so; this is a universal story about how to age and not betray your ideals. Vernon’s rise and fall could happen to anyone, it’s not specific to any generation.”
The show is distributed by StudioCanal. For international viewers, Verney said another compelling dimension of the show will be its insider view of the French capital. “This show doesn’t just take a touristic journey through Paris.”
This and more in MIPTV News Issue 1, out April 8. This article was written by Julian Newby, edited for MIPBlog.