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Casting for La Guerre des Boutons (War of the Buttons) By Yann Samuell

Updated on January 24, 2014
Poster design by Raymond Savignac
Poster design by Raymond Savignac | Source

Where is Rochechouart?

87600 Rochechouart, France

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Videix, 87600 Videix, France

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Our guest house and gite, or holiday cottage, is ten minutes from Rochechouart. We also offer painting holidays. Contact:

Me in The War of the Buttons by Yann Samuell?

I would not have known about the castings for the new, 2011 remake of the film La Guerre des Boutons (or War of the Buttons) by Yann Samuell if I hadn't been contacted by the film company One World Films in their quest for accommodation for the film crew.

We have a gite (or holiday cottage, vacation rental, holiday villa) just outside the quaint medieval town of Rochechouart and the company have taken it on for the spring period.

Being interested in the goings on in our little known part of South West France, I asked many questions and it emerged, in the course of the conversation, that casting for the film was taking place the very next weekend. Adults only. Well, I simply couldn't resist.

I arrived late and was just in time to see the heavy doors of the Capitol in Rochechouart being closed and a gaggle of local people being turned away. It was a drab day and the very ordinary people looked drab as they hung around wondering what to do next. I waved to my friend only to find that she was cross to have missed the first session of the castings because I was late.

Culpable. I had to endure a frosty reception, and, as the second session was to be at eleven, we had fifty minutes in which to kill time.

Find out more about the book, the films, the cartoons and the operas: War of the Buttons: The Book and the Movies

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War of the Buttons - Locations in the Auvergne France

Blesle, France

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Lavaudieu, France

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Chalinargues, France

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A rival version of The War of the Buttons by Christophe Barratier

Yes, it is not only going to be the War of the Buttons, but it's the war of the films of The War of the Buttons - if you see what I mean.

While Yann Samuell was making his version of the story in Limousin, Christophe Barratier was, at the very same time, filming his Guerre des Boutons in the Auvergne - the wild region to the southeast of Limousin. Blesle and Lavaudieu were the main locations with the school scenes being shot at Chalinargues in the Cantal.

Barratier's version of the story is set in the spring of 1944 in occupied France, and the child war is becomes a miniature of the adult war being played out over Europe. The similarity is further reinforced as Violette, a Jewish girl in danger of being discovered by the Nazis, makes Lebrac face the darkness of reality.

Both these films are coming out at the same time, Christmas 2011. A double treat for fans of this great tale.

Cafe Gaston Delavie, Rochechouart
Cafe Gaston Delavie, Rochechouart | Source

The Café Gaston Delavie in Rochechouart

We decided to retire to The Café Gaston Delavie. It’s the sort of café Degas would have delighted in. Homely, intimate and run by an old French lady with her long grey hair fastened somehow away from her face. We were ushered into the back room as her regular customers were served pastis in the kitchen at the front. Her she brought us coffee and hot milk that had been boiled in chipped, yellow enamelled pans. This cheered my friend up a little and we both managed to keep our tempers while my thirteen year old son played with his finger skates along the formic tables edged in some sort of metal that looked like aluminium.

Waiting outside the Capitol, Rochechouart
Waiting outside the Capitol, Rochechouart | Source

French Peasants wanted by Yann Samuell

Frumps please step forward!

Soon we were back outside to Capitol, a sort of Church hall on two floors, but without the church. It’s the place where Yoga classes and ballroom dances are held. It is where children are fed cake after the Halloween celebrations, and where the judo medals are handed out.

Today the hall was used for the casting of a new film version of La Guerre des Boutons, the War of the Buttons. More people had gathered and there was quite a crowd. Being the location of a new, high-profile movie was news in a small market town in S W France. Big news. Everyone, including us two English women, wanted to take part. Fame, or at the very least, something to do.

We all crowded towards the doors, waiting for them to open. I recognised the local newspaper photographer. He too had been to the Halloween festivities and the giving out of the Judo prizes. Everyone knows everybody in Rochechouart, including the newspaper photographer. My son and I have been featured in the paper many times. I can’t say that I was in a paper in Britain more than once when I appeared with my brother to advertise our joint painting and sculpture exhibition at York University. My mother treasures the photo still whilst I have long since given up accumulating the clippings here in France. The advantages of being a fish in a small pond.

La Guerre des Boutons (French Edition)
La Guerre des Boutons (French Edition)

This is the original novel published in 1912 recounting the story of the two rival kid gangs.


Rochechouart, the perfect rural Limousin backwater

I heard about the castings through our gite. We have a holiday cottage that we let through Gites de France, a national organisation that oversees tourist accommodation here. They had given our name, along with many others, to Matt, who was in charge of finding accommodation for the film crew.

My curiosity outweighed my British reserve and I couldn't resist grilling this poor boy for information. Could I go and see them filming, could my son be an extra, where were the locations, when would it all be starting, would it be better than previous films? No, No, Biennac and around and about Rochechouart, April and he hoped so. I thought perhaps I could go and take photographs that I could later work up into paintings. Surely the powers that be would welcome such an initiative and perhaps even host an exhibition? Pipe dreams. The result, there I was on a cool and cloudy Saturday morning pressing forward with the rest and hoping to squeeze myself through the door.

When the doors did open it was to expel the last candidates from the first session, and to make announcements to the second group of hopeless hopefuls. No women with coloured hair. They didn’t want any women with short hair cuts or dyed or bleached hair. A few turned away. We, being English and not inclined to visit hairdressers, had once-bleached hair that now blended so well with the grey that it seemed naturally dismal. How wonderful to find that poor grooming and a careless attitude to our appearance actually counted in our favour. In we went along with a hotch-potch of the French locals; old men, young men, women with the odd child, youths, a few girls, many grannies. Most were ‘middle aged’, like us. We were numbered with sticky labels as we pushed in.

Women's hair styles of the day
Women's hair styles of the day | Source

The hairstyles of the times - How to get the 1950s look

First we were sat down and addressed by a thin, small young French woman, plainly dressed and without makeup. She swiftly and clearly ran through the ins and outs of being a film extra. Men were to have short-back-and-sides and this was to be done by their hairdressers. No side burns. Pattes. Women mustn’t have their hair cut between now and the filming. Hair could be taken off, but not added on. Real addresses must be given and not the address of their aunts and grandmothers who lived in Rochechouart. What they really needed was old women with long, uncoloured hair and adults between thirty and forty years of age. The age of parents. For this was a story about a war between gangs of kids, and kids had mums and dads. I looked around. It was true that we were mostly in our 50’s and the older women had their hair cropped in neat, short styles.

Onwards. The talk over, forms were handed out. They were efficient, certainly. Put our numbers on the top, we glanced down to our chests to read our numbers. I was 124. Fill in the forms. Tell them our occupations. Did we have any manual skills that might be useful in a film set in 1958? Agriculteurs, or farmers, artisans and craftspeople were sought-after. I duly wrote down that I kept geese, sheep and goats. I’d have liked to have added that I could milk a goat, but didn’t feel confident enough that I would get it right if I attempted such a long sentence with rather tricky words like traiter, in French. I didn’t want to give them the opportunity of refusing me on the grounds that I wouldn’t be able to understand what on earth was going on.

Measured up

We were measured, chest and waist. We had to put our height, hat and shoe size on the form. Shoe size is simple. I’m a 35. I know that. I know that I am five foot four inches tall. I have no idea what that is in meters and centimeters nor any clue about my hat size. I’ve never bought a hat. Fortunately I had a tape measure in my handbag, it comes in useful on a regular basis for one thing or another. It was in inches and centimeters. Saved. The hat, or bonnet, size was not possible to calculate, but it appeared that it wasn’t essential. Ce n’est pas grave. And then we were photographed. Our forms were taken from us and we were told not to worry about being contacted, (in other words, don’t bother them), but if we hand’t heard by the end of May, that was that. Superfluous to requirements. We were dismissed. Time for the French lunch which takes precedence over everything. Without exception. Almost.

We put our jumpers back on, and our coats and took time to look at the photocopies that had been pinned around the room showing scenes of life in rural France in the 1950’s. Interesting. I, in turn, photographed them. Documenting what little I could of the occasion. Not hopeful at all that I would be starting my career as a star of the silver screen. Not hopeful at all.

The History of the War of the Buttons

And what is the film about? I hardly knew at the time of the casting, but I know now. It began life as a book written by the dashingly handsome Louis Perfaud in 1912. It was first made into a film entitled Les Guerre des Gosses, The War of the Kids, in 1938. In 1962 Yves Robert made the film La Guerre des Boutons, and the story was transported to Ireland in 1994 by John Roberts and entitled War of the Buttons. Right now two more versions are being filmed in our area of France and both will be released at the end of 2011 in time for Christmas. Is this going to be the war of the War of the Buttons?

La Guerre Des Boutons by Yann Samuell

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© 2011 Les Trois Chenes

Let me know what you think about The War of the Buttons

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    • Les Trois Chenes profile imageAUTHOR

      Les Trois Chenes 

      8 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Many thanks for your comments, RedElf. Still waiting to hear from the company, though. Not holding breath for goose-girl part.

    • RedElf profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      Fabulous. I love casting calls - sent actors to them. They can be exciting, boring, exasperating, and intriguing. Good luck to you - perhaps may we be seeing you as a goose-herd in the not-too-distant future?


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