Papillon (film): Wikis


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film poster by Richard Amsel
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Produced by Ted Richmond
Written by Henri Charrière
Dalton Trumbo
Starring Steve McQueen
Dustin Hoffman
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Editing by Robert Swink
Distributed by Allied Artists Pictures Corporation (USA)
Columbia Pictures (Non-USA)
Release date(s) December 16, 1973
Running time 150 minutes
Country  United States
Language English
Budget $12,000,000 USD

Papillon is a 1973 film based on a novel by French ex-convict Henri Charrière. The film was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and starred Steve McQueen as Henri Charrière ("Papillon") and Dustin Hoffman as Louis Dega. Due to the exotic locations, the film was considered as very expensive at the time of shooting ($12M), but earned more than double that in its first year of release [1].

This film was rated PG by the MPAA.



A man makes friends with a fellow in-mate while they are serving sentence on a notorious island prison and he plots his hellish escape.

The petty criminal known as Papillon is unjustly convicted of murder (specifically, murdering a pimp) in the 1930s and sentenced to life imprisonment in a French penitentiary on Devil's Island in French Guiana. He attempts several escapes, which result in many punishments, but after more than a decade (at least seven years of which were spent in solitary confinement as punishment for his escape attempts), he eventually succeeds in escaping to freedom.


Papillon was filmed at various locations in Spain and Jamaica, with the cave scenes filmed beneath what is now the Xtabi hotel on the cliffs of Negril. While the penal colony scenes for Papillon were filmed in Falmouth, and the swamp scenes were shot near Ferris Cross, Steve McQueen’s famous cliff jumping scene, near the end of the movie, took place on the Xtabi cliffs [2]. McQueen insisted on performing the cliff jumping stunt himself, and later referred to it as “one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life” [3].

Deviations from the book

The script made several deviations from the book; some of them are listed.

  • Papillon's imprisonment before sailing to French Guiana is not depicted in the film, nor is his trial.
  • Papillon knew Dega before boarding the transport to South America. They had agreed to protect each other while waiting in prison.
  • Dega was not included in the first escape attempt.
  • Dega is portrayed as also being imprisoned on Devil's Island. In the book, he is imprisoned on another of the Îles du Salut, but never Devil's Island.
  • Papillon's ultimate escape is somewhat changed; the film ends with his escape from Devil's Island to the mainland, without covering his subsequent escape from the penal colony (bagne) itself to eventual freedom in Venezuela.
  • Admonitions against masturbation occur only once in the film, while in the novel, they are quite frequent, and serve as a moralizing lesson throughout.
  • Henri Charrière's real name is not revealed in the movie, as he is only known as "Papillon." The real name of the character is however depicted on the door of his cell during solitary confinement.


Actor Role
Steve McQueen Henri 'Papillon' Charriere
Dustin Hoffman Louis Dega
Victor Jory Indian chief
Don Gordon Julot
Anthony Zerbe Toussaint Leper Colony chief
Robert Deman Maturette
Woodrow Parfrey Clusiot
Bill Mumy Lariot
George Coulouris Dr. Chatal
Ratna Assan Zoraima
William Smithers Warden Barrot
Val Avery Pascal
Vic Tayback Sergeant


In 1974, the film was nominated for Oscar and Golden Globe awards in the Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (Jerry Goldsmith) and Best Motion Picture Actor, Drama (Steve McQueen) categories, respectively.


Although the film has remained mostly underground, it has received strong positives reviews by some critics, holding a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes with 13 reviews.


  1. ^ Movie location and cost information
  2. ^ “Franklin J. Schaffner (Scarecrow Filmmakers Series) (1985) Scarecrow Publishing P. 381 ISBN 9780810817999
  3. ^ Sandford, Christopher. Steve McQueen: The Biography. (2002). Taylor Trade Publishing. P. 247 ISBN 9780878333073

External links

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