When Ridley Scott was shooting The Last Duel in the Dordogne...


Ridley Scott, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in Sarlat-la-Canéda

On the night of February 11th to 12th, the big sedan ball put the town of Sarlat-la-Canéda in turmoil. On board is Matt Damon, one of the title roles in Ridley Scott’s upcoming film, The Last Duel. Many hotels were privatized for the occasion. In addition to the technical teams, Ben Affleck was also on hand. The actor had to give the line to his friend.

According to information from France Bleu Périgord, the English director known for his blockbuster films Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Robin Hood, Prometheus and Seul sur Mars had already arrived on the scene on February 5 to do location scouting. The filming sequences began on February 14 and ended on the 28th.

A blockbuster in the Dordogne

The film, described as a blockbuster, is credited with the biggest budget ever achieved for a foreign production on French territory. Moreover, the department financed part of the feature film and its shooting office was useful in recruiting technicians.

In addition, to protect the sets and costumes, Ridley Scott’s teams rented 5000 m2 of warehouses in Sarlat.

About 50 semi-trailers were needed to transport all this material to the site. An American cook made the trip to take care of the catering for the teams and horses straight from England were used. These animals were then housed in two equestrian centres in the Black Perigord.

According to strict confidentiality agreements, neither the film crews, nor the actors and extras were to reveal the plot of the feature film. We know, however, that The Last Duel is an adaptation of a book by Eric Jager.

Jean de Carrouges challenges Jacques Le Gris to a duel

Ridley Scott therefore had the idea of making a film based on the novel by the American academic Eric Jager: The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France, published in its original version by Random House in 2004, then in French by Gallimard in 2010 under the title Le Dernier duel: Paris, 29 December 1386.

The director entrusted the script to Nicole Holofcener, director of several episodes of the series Sex and the City and Six Feet Under, but also to actors Matt Demon and Ben Affleck, who play characters from the film.

The plot is based on the famous duel that really took place between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris in the 14th century. The first, a knight, returns home after a military expedition. His wife, Marguerite de Thibouville, accuses the second mate of raping her. Yet a long-time friend of James, John provokes him with arms. If he put the knight to death, his wife was burned alive on a false accusation.

For more authenticity, Ridley Scott chose the Dordogne to shoot scenes from The Last Duel. It should be noted that the director had already filmed this region for his very first feature film, The Duelists, in 1977. The castles of Caudon, Commarque, Cipières and Puymartin were used as decorations. Sarlat-la-Canéda, Tursac and Monpazier were also honoured in the film. The latter city will be back on the screens for the director’s new feature film.

Medieval market scene

Place des Cornières, 24540 Monpazier

The small town of Monpazier was in turmoil on 27 and 28 February 2020. The 500 inhabitants couldn’t believe it, they could watch the filming of the movie from close up and observe the actors Matt Demon and Adam Driver. The Place des Cornières of this 13th century bastide was transformed into a medieval market. Two hundred extras were mobilized for this important sequence of the feature film. The curious were able to enjoy the scenery as it remained visible throughout the following weekend.

Wedding Scene

Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption church in Beynac, 24220 Beynac-et-Cazenac

Ridley Scott’s crews went to the town of Beynac to film in the 12th century medieval castle (Route du Château, 24220 Beynac-et-Cazenac). If we don’t know more about the scene there, we know that the village church was used for a wedding. This religious building dating from the same period was enlarged in the 16th and 16th centuries by the addition of two chapels.

Finally, the Dordogne department rented the Beynac bypass site to the production company so that the extras could park near the town.

Shooting in Fénelon, Berzé, Narbonne and Ireland

In addition to Beynac and Monpazier, the last duel was filmed in the castle of Fénelon (24370 Sainte-Mondane). Again, we do not know what sequences were filmed in this 12th century fortress.

The teams then left the Dordogne. Shooting continued at the Château de Berzé in Saône-et-Loire on 9 March, in Narbonne, at the Abbey of Sainte-Marie de Fontfroide near Carcassonne and in Mâcon.

But the Covid-19 coronavirus got the better of the feature. With only nine days of filming left in Mâcon, it was suspended because of the epidemic. How will Ridley Scott be able to complete his sequences? Especially as he later had to travel to Ireland to Bective Bridge and Bective Abbey (County Meath) and Cahir Castle (County Tipperary) to film.

The release of The Last Duel is scheduled for December 25, 2020 in some theatres and January 8, 2021 in the rest of the world. But will it be ready in time?

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By Anthony Thibault

Thursday, March 12, 2020

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