Anecdotes from Jean Rollin's Filmings and Life
In this article that I’m excited and honored to write for Jeremy’s blog, I will tell you a few stories about Jean Rollin and other people involved in making his films.
I learned these anecdotes from people who worked with Jean Rollin and from the recordings of his own interviews.
Now, let’s get down to business.
Véronique Djaouti-Travers, a close friend and assistant of Jean Rollin, likes to say that she left three vertebras (spine segments) and two wisdom teeth at the filming of Two Orphan Vampires.
Jean Rollin asked Véronique to play the role of the Lady of Midnight—the bat woman—in the film. Véronique wasn’t excited about this as she doesn’t like to be filmed or photographed and normally never gives anyone her permission for this. But she agreed to do it for Jean Rollin as her close friend.
By the way, it was her second appearance (of total three) in his films. The first one was a role of a girl chasing the main character with a gun in the Killing Car (La femme dangereuse). And the third one was the violinist in Dracula’s Fiancee (La fiancee de Dracula).
In the film, Véronique wears a costume the main part of which is two large bat wings. The problem was that Sylvain Montagné, the designer on their crew, made them too heavy. He used metal formwork bars, mesh, and latex to create these wings. For some reason, unfortunately, he couldn’t come up with a lighter option after Véronique and Jean had pointed this problem out.
Another problem was that Véronique wasn’t allowed to wear anything heavy, run or jump. This was prohibited by her doctor: she had had an orthopedic surgery a few months before and was recovering from it.
During the scene, Véronique was assisted by two strong crew members when she needed to climb and come back down from the altar and perform other movements. It was a real torture for her.
At some point during the filming process, Véronique had to walk down the stairs to the basement of the chapel. The girls playing the main roles—Isabelle Teboul and Alexandra Pic—were assisting her with the weight of the wings. However, despite their help, at some point, three of Véronique’s vertebras cracked! Isabelle and Alexandra even heard the sound of it.
Véronique said she didn’t feel good, so her scene had to be cut short. The next day a doctor visited her and concluded that three vertebras in her spine were fractured. After all those years, the cracks are still there. Véronique says that she still risks to end up in a wheelchair.
This sad incident wasn’t the only one that happened to Véronique during the filming of Two Orphan Vampires. The role implied that she would wear prosthetic vampire fangs. In order to have them created by a dentist prosthetist, Véronique had to have two wisdom teeth removed. As a result of this surgery, she got a maxillofacial trauma. What makes it even sadder is that her prosthetic teeth are only visible for one tiny moment in the film!
Véronique tells this story (as well as the following one and many more!) in greater detail and in French, on her website dedicated to Jean Rollin.
Another story from Véronique—a much funnier one this time.
After filming Two Orphan Vampires, Véronique received a call from Jean Rollin. In a very worried voice, he told her that he had lost a check for 60 000 Francs (today’s equivalent would be about 90 000 Euros) that he had got as a payment for the film. Jean asked Véronique to come over and help him look for it.
Véronique postponed what she was doing at that moment and came to Jean’s apartment to help him in his search. They searched the whole apartment and didn’t find the check. Véronique suggested that Jean had probably thrown it away by mistake.
Véronique and Jean went down to the basement to look for the check in the wastes coming from all apartments through the garbage chute. Once they got there, Véronique was searching the garbage and Jean Rollin was staying on guard: they were trying to avoid meeting the apartment building’s guard because he was quite an unpleasant person and would start to ask questions and be unhappy with what they were doing in the basement.
After having found nothing, Véronique looked up the chute and saw a small piece of paper stuck to its wall that she hoped was the check. Véronique and Jean turned a container upside down so that Véronique would be able to climb it and grab the paper. The paper was still out of her reach, so Véronique had to jump to grab it. Which was still prohibited by her doctor, especially after what had happened to her spine during the filming!
Fortunately, Véronique’s vertebras and feet withstood the load. And she managed to grab the piece of paper that, indeed, appeared to be the check, slightly dirty. So they immediately went to the bank and deposited the money. Then they used it to finance the filming of Dracula’s Fiancee.
Jean Rollin would misplace many things. Once upon a time, Véronique was helping Jean to look for his mobile phone. She called his number and heard a weak sound coming from the kitchen. The phone was in the freezer department of his fridge.
There were also theft cases during filmings. For example, during the shooting of Killing Car, someone stole a gun from the glove compartment of Véronique’s car. So they had to buy a new one. Fanny Magier also notes in our interview that during the filming of Fascination, the camera disappeared!
As you probably remember, at some point in this film, Marie-Pierre, together with her twin sister—Catherine—falls and rolls down the stairs after being hit with a large candelabrum by Ursule Pauly.
According to the original idea, she was supposed to hold a capsule of fake blood between her teeth, bite it in during the fall, and release the liquid at the end so that there would be a red puddle of blood on the floor around her head after the fall.
However, during her fall, Marie-Pierre swallowed part of this substance. The substance included chemicals also used for things like nail polish and didn’t taste good. Marie-Pierre felt disgusted and this made her lose her consciousness indeed. As a result, the crew abandoned the original idea. The scene we see in the film doesn’t involve blood.
I learned this story from an interview with Marie-Pierre Castel that she gave sometime in the 70’s to a magazine that I can’t identify. Marie-Pierre also noted that she was prone to dizziness which made it tough for her to play scenes involving stairways and elevated locations. Considering that Jean Rollin liked to set his films in castles, she had to deal with quite a few of such places, which was always challenging for her.
One detail about working with Jean Rollin that different actresses note in their interviews is that Jean loved to shoot during cold weather. And the real problem was that the roles often demanded that the actresses be naked or semi-naked.
Once upon a time, Marie-Pierre Castel put on a nylon skin-colored pantyhouse hoping to feel a little warmer. However, she had to take them off because she was told that the fabric formed wrinkles on her knees which would be visible in the shot.
InThe Rape of the Vampire, there is a scene where one of the girls enters the sea at Jean Rollin’s favorite beach of Pourville sur Mer. In one of his interviews, Jean is saying that the actress was much afraid of this scene. They were filming it during a cold season, and, obviously, entering a cold sea was even a hundred times worse than just playing in the cold.
Jean Rollin came up with how to calm her down. He told her that in similar situations, when an actor is playing and embraces their role and the character, they no longer feel such things as cold, fear or pain. He assured the girl that she would not feel how cold the sea would be, because she would be immersed in the process. Jean admits that he partially made this statement up just to calm the girl down. And it worked.
There was another time when an actress was scared of playing in his film. Françoise Pascal shares in her video interview for Psychovision that she was very afraid of being at the cemetery at night, particularly she was afraid of the midnight.
Françoise shared her concern with Jean Rollin, and he joked: “All the deadmen will come to see you”.
In Jeremy’s own interview with Françoise Pascal, she shared that Jean Jacques Renon, the Cinematographer, found a creative way to dissolve her fear:
Jean Jacques devised a method, we would drink a bottle of white wine always Muscadet Sevres at midnight to the departed, this way they will not come and haunt us….You know we were safe…… also we used to tell Jules Verne, he was buried in the Cemetery where we were filming, Amiens, to protect us, we used to shout it at the top of our voices. JULES, JULES PROTÈGE-NOUS !
This happened around 1991-1992. Véronique and Jean Rollin were looking for financing of Jean’s project The Return of Dracula—a TV series for France 3 that, unfortunately, has never been realized.
Jean met a banker who told him he was interested in financing his project and they scheduled an appointment to discuss the details. Véronique accompanied Jean at the meeting at the banker’s office.
During the meeting, Véronique noticed that the banker was looking at her in a particular way, like he was more interested in something else than the film. At the end of the meeting, he tried to get her contact information, additionally to Jean’s, but Véronique refused to share it. Later, the banker tried to contact her through Jean as well.
Véronique quickly understood that the banker didn’t really plan to finance the project. He was just wasting their time trying to connect with Véronique and never kept the promises he would make during the negotiations.
Véronique was annoyed by such a behavior. Once she and Jean agreed that they wouldn’t proceed with trying to do business with this person, Véronique came up with an evil joke to play with the banker.
Véronique and Jean were walking at a small cemetery taking pictures for one of their projects. Jean asked Véronique to take photos of trash cans with faded and rotten flowers inside. At this point, Véronique had an idea.
She stopped by a funeral flower shop and asked the vendor if he had a funeral wreath of faded and rotten flowers somewhere in his trash. Véronique explained to him what it was for—to send these flowers to the banker playing his stupid games with them to let him know that they were no longer interested in wasting their time with him. It was like a symbol of burying their nonexistent deal.
The seller found a wreath of dead flowers that looked their worst and also smelled decay. He was so amused by such a creative and humorous idea that he refused to get paid for the flowers and even added the “rest in peace” banner for free and agreed to deliver the rotten wreath to the banker’s office.
After the delivery, Jean Rollin heard from the banker who was very unhappy with such a gift.
Photo from the archive of Véronique Djaouti-Travers