Brotherhood of the Wolf

The legend of the Beast of Gevaudin

Monica Bellucci as Sylvia in the sumptuous Brotherhood...

At last we present the real story behind the fantasy drama Brotherhood of the Wolf, in conversation with director Christophe Gans

A Shivers feature by Alan Jones

Selected from Shivers #82

Every country or culture has their own mysterious legends. But one of the least known to the world at large is the French legend of the Beast of Gevaudin. During the reign of King Louis XV, between 1765 and 1768, over one hundred women and children were killed in very strange circumstances in an isolated region of south-central France. All the corpses bore the marks of savage attack by a ferocious animal and an unrelenting reign of terror quickly gripped the mist-shrouded, forest-clad hillside community. Eye-witnesses spoke of a huge red wolf prowling the area and the vicious deaths soon became a national talking point.

French Fable

Now this French fable is being given the big screen treatment in Le Pacte Des Loups/Brotherhood of the Wolf, a $30 million fantasy adventure financed by Le Studio Canal + and Davis Films. Directed by Christophe Gans, who for producers Hadida and Brian Yuzna helmed the Hotel of the Drowned segment in H P Lovecraft’s Necronomicon and the cult hit Crying Freeman,

I spoke to Gans about his latest Fantasy while he directed a spectacular battle scene high in the Pyrenees close to the winter ski resort of Saint-Lary Soulan. Brotherhood of the Wolf came into Gans’ life at a time when he was completely frustrated by attempts to mount a new $45 million version of the Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. “I worked for over two years on that project, we even built sets in the Bahamas, but it clearly wasn’t working out.”

Then Gans received an offer from Le Studio Canal + to direct Brotherhood of the Wolf and he quickly made the decision to accept it. “The French never make genre movies – The Fifth Element’s Luc Besson is the rare exception – and here was a chance to direct one of the biggest in our industry’s history. Canal + were very honest with me and said they wanted to change the rules and try and beat the Americans at their own game. When I accepted the project, I was told to do two things – make an enjoyable movie for wide international audiences and set a new standard for French cinema. How could I resist the challenge?”

Wolf’s Tale

Gans based his decision to direct Brotherhood of the Wolf on the original script written by Stephane Cabel. “The characters just leapt off the page at me. I knew the Beast of Gevaudan story because my parents told me about it when I was a child and I remember seeing a black-and-white TV drama documentary in the Sixties covering the fact and fiction. But I wanted to make something great, something that would explore contemporary themes through a historical perspective, so I re-wrote Cabel’s first draft screenplay adding more action, romance, fantasy and supernatural elements.

"Cabel’s script stuck more to the historical facts with the real-life protagonists. As it now stands, 60 per cent of the script follows what really happened and the remainder is complete fabrication. It’s still an enthralling tale of love, political intrigue and religious fervour. I just gave the script extra depth and pushed the strong characters into a surreal fairy tale landscape to make a full-blown monster movie...”

Christophe Gans talks in more depth in this issue (#82) and in Shivers #83 there's more on this film!

Science V. Terror

Vincent Cassal as Jean-Franc de Morangias Brotherhood of the Wolf stars Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci, Mark Dacascos, Jeremy Renier and Emilie Dequenne, winner of the 1999 Best Actress prize at Cannes for Rosetta.

Set in 1766, it begins when natural scientist Gregoire de Fronsac (Le Bihan) is sent to Gevaudan by King Louis to build a portrait of the Beast terrorizing the region. Accompanied by his blood brother Mani (Dacascos), an Iroquois Indian he met while serving in the Americas, he enlists the enthusiastic help of enlightened noble Marquis Thomas d’Apcher (Renier) and falls in love with aristocrat Marianne de Morangais (Dequenne).

As ever more savage deaths are reported, and the locals become convinced they are the Devil’s work, the men soon discover that the Beast is a mysterious wild animal which has been trained to kill to order. But by whom and for what purpose? The answer to those questions leads Fronsac and Mani into a vortex of secret society horror and demonic corruption as they try to halt the chilling catalogue of carnage.

Shot over four months in early 2000 on locations in Paris, the Pyrenees, the South of France and Cornwall (for the final shot), the state-of-the-art animatronic Beast was built and operated by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop under the creative direction of Jamie Courtier. And no one, apart from key cast and crew members, is being allowed to see the Beast until the film’s release in France around Christmas time.

Official site - French

Feature © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction

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