PARIS | As a child, filmmaker James Huth was influenced by The toy, a cult comedy directed by Francis Veber, in which Pierre Richard played an unemployed journalist who agreed to be hired as a “toy” for a millionaire’s son. Forty-seven years after the release of the original film, the director offers The new toyan updated version of this timeless classic, this time worn by Jamel Debbouze and Daniel Auteuil.
The idea did not come from him, but from his producer Richard Grandpierre. When he offered to reinterpret Francis Veber’s film and transfer the story to modern-day France, James Huth didn’t react very well at first.
“I said to him: You’re completely crazy! How do you intend to tackle this? It’s cult, it’s the film of our childhood!” laughs James Huth, whom he met last month at the Rendez-vous d’Unifrance in Paris.
The Brice de Nice and Lucky Luke director nonetheless agreed to review the original film before giving his final answer. But just as he looked at Veber’s comedy with grown-up eyes, he realized the importance of re-reading it.
“When I watched the film again, I saw the scathing satire Veber did. It’s the film’s toughness that makes it its strength. Neither the poor nor the rich make it. As I thought about it, I thought maybe there could be a new version of this movie. I noticed that the themes of the first film are much more relevant today. I am thinking in particular of the social divide, the phenomenon of child kings, the place of money in our lives…
Photo courtesy of Les Films Opale
Daniel Auteuil plays the richest man in France in the film.
“It’s also very rare that a film is based on such a strong concept, the richest man in France’s son buying a human as a toy, it’s so strong! I thought this story gives us an opportunity to do a comedy where we really laugh but where there’s also a lot of emotion. So I embarked on this adventure.
The power of money
The new toy’s scenario follows the main lines of the original film. On the birthday of his son Alexandre, Philippe Étienne (Daniel Auteuil), the richest man in France, opens his department store and offers him to choose the toys he wants.
To everyone’s surprise, Alexandre (Simon Faliu) decides to target Sami (Jamel Debbouze), the new night guard who has just been caught sleeping on his shift. Since ridicule doesn’t kill, Sami will end up agreeing to become Alexander’s plaything in exchange for a generous salary of 2000 euros (about $2800) a day.
“Imagine being offered a salary of 14,000 euros a week to take a child to play with, who has all kinds of games in their castle, to be fed and housed… Who would say no today?” asks James Huth.
“That’s the strength of Veber’s concept, who is such a great screenwriter. It is still so powerful today, this question.
“Money drives people insane and guides them. It is high time that man led society again by bringing human relationships back to the fore. That’s what we wanted to say with this reinterpretation of Veber’s work. In a way, it’s an idealistic film.
The new toy hits theaters on February 24th.