"Irma Vep": filming in Paris and screening in Cannes for Olivier Assayas’ series

"Irma Vep": filming in Paris and screening in Cannes for Olivier Assayas’ series

16 May 2022
Olivier Assayas 
Olivier Assayas  Carole Bethuel/HBO

Twenty-six years after his eponymous film and more than a century after the Louis Feuillade soap opera Les Vampires which the French director took his inspiration from, Olivier Assayas will present the first three episodes of his series Irma Vep, starring Swedish actress Alicia Vikander on La Croisette.

It is the story of Mira, an American film star who has come to France to play the legend Musidora in a remake of the classic silent film Les Vampires (1915) by Louis Feuillade. Surrounded by a French film crew with poor English-speaking skills, the actress loses her grip on reality and is gradually taken over by her character.

In this adaptation of Louis Feuillade’s soap opera, Olivier Assayas promises to stick to the original as closely as possible while leaving room for freedom at the same time. “I did everything I couldn't do in the original film. I used Feuillade’s original ten-episode serial as the basis, which I have reduced to eight,” explains the French director.  

Irma Vep
"Irma Vep"  HBO / OCS

A bilingual and international project

Here, Alicia Vikander takes over from Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung who played Mira in the original 1996 film. Alongside her are well-known names on French screens: Vincent Macaigne plays the character of the filmmaker, René Vidal, previously played by Jean-Pierre Léaud, and Jeanne Balibar that of Zoé, who was previously played by Nathalie Richard, while Vincent Lacoste, Hippolyte Girardot, Antoine Reinartz and other actors portray new characters. They are not the only French artists to join forces with Olivier Assayas, with Thomas Bangalter from the legendary duo Daft Punk having composed the music for the series.

The poster for Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires series Gaumont

This international and bilingual project was the idea of Olivier Assayas’ US agent, who suggested making the filmmaker’s feature film into a television series to the independent company, A24 (Succession, Uncut Gems), which submitted the project to HBO. The US channel gave its go-ahead in just a fortnight before taking over the delegated production of the series backed by A24 and Little Lamb on the US side.

Les Films Mystérieux was line producer of the shooting in France, under the supervision of Tatiana Bouchain, the production manager. Founded by Sylvie Barthet and Daniel Delume, this French company takes its name from the original Les Vampires poster.

A series in the heart of the City of Light

Filming began on 14 June 2021 and took place over one hundred days between Paris and Île-de-France.  Some of the locations in which Alicia Vikander and her co-stars can be seen include iconic places in the French capital - the Opéra-Comique, the Champs-Elysées, Montmartre and Gare du Nord. The Irma Vep team also shot a number of scenes in Roissy-en-France at Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport.

In keeping with HBO's decision, the entire shoot was in line with a green eco-friendly approach.  Olivier Assayas’ team was assisted by Secoya Eco-tournage, a consulting company that assists production companies in their ecological transition.

For the post-production stage to take place between February and July 2022, the team must set up the first three episodes for the premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, 22 May, a real race against time. From 6 June, all the final episodes will have to be delivered for the US launch of the series on HBO. In France, the first episode will be broadcast one day later on the OCS network.

Irma Vep
Irma Vep HBO / OCS

Tax rebate for international productions

The Irma Vep series benefited from the tax rebate for international productions (TRIP) created by the CNC in partnership with the national film commission, Film France, which joined the CNC in November 2021. TRIP aims in particular to increase the attractiveness of French regions for foreign filming. To be eligible for this scheme, projects must be fiction or animation cinematographic or audiovisual works. The tax rebate is paid to companies established in France, which are responsible for the line production of the work (in the case of Irma Vep, Les Films Mystérieux) for 30% of all expenses incurred on French soil. This may be increased to 40% if the foreign production incurs expenses relating to the production of visual effects in France (the amount of which must be greater than two million euros).

From filming to post-production, the majority of Irma Vep was produced in France. Les Films Mystérieux benefited from the support of Film France/CNC, whose mission is to promote the French  territory(locations, studios, talents) to international decision-makers in the film industry.

Irma Vep

8 x 59 min. / First episode airing June 6th on HBO and June 7th on OCS.
Created, written and directed by Olivier Assayas
Produced by HBO, A24, Little Lamb, Les Films Mystérieux
Music composed by de Pierre-Marie Dru
Starring Alicia Vikander, Vincent Macaigne, Jeanne Balibar, Vincent Lacoste, Alex Descas, Carrie Brownstein…