Released in 2016, “La Fille de Brest” looks back on the Mediator affair, considered one of the biggest French health scandals. To play the role of the pulmonologist Irène Frachon, who was the whistleblower of this incident, a strong actress was needed. And the director Emmanuelle Bercot knew how to find it.
The Girl from Brest : inspired by real events
The Girl from Brest looks back on the Mediator scandal, which turned the life of the French media upside down in the 2010s. Thus, the affair broke out at the end of the 2000s when the Brest-based pulmonologist Irène Frachon launched an initial alert to the National Security Agency of medicine and health products. This is because it relates to the risk of heart attack that many patients may experience after using a medicine called Mediator. Developed by Servier laboratories since 1976, however, the product continues to be marketed in France, as if nothing had happened. And this despite its withdrawals from the Swiss, Spanish and Italian markets.
For 3 years, Frachon will therefore conduct his investigation, gradually discovering more and more frightening revelations about a medico-pharmaceutical environment practicing omerta. Wanting to make Servier laboratories face up to their responsibilities regarding the dangerousness of their drug, She therefore published in 2010 the book Mediator 150 mg: how many deaths?. The work will thus open the floodgates for complaints, trials and convictions (Servier will be convicted in 2021 for aggravated deception, following this drug which will have caused the death of more than 2,000 people). It is on the basis of this book that Emmanuelle Bercot has directed The Girl from Brest.
Looking for an actress
Tracing the history of this scandalous affair, The Girl from Brest was therefore looking for a reliable actress to play Irène Frachon. However, the director Emmanuelle Bercot saw no French actress to brilliantly embody the pulmonologist and whistleblower. The solution then came from the legend Catherine Deneuve. She had indeed worked with the filmmaker a year earlier on Heads up. The famous actress then advised him to watch a Danish series named Borgen (2010-2013), in which a Danish actress gives a solid interpretation: Sidse Babett Knudsen. For Deneuve, the latter could perfectly embody Frachon.
Curious, Emmanuelle Bercot therefore listens to the advice of the actress and watches the political series (which was a critical and international commercial success during its years of broadcasting). The director is won over by the actor’s acting, especially as the latter speaks good French. The actress is therefore hired quickly. A good thing since Sidse Babett Knudsen was nominated for the Caesar for her performance. In parallel, Séverine Bosschem and Emmanuelle Bercot were also nominated for the César for best adaptation. Good pick, then. Thank you Catherine!
What did the “real” Irène Frachon think of her fictional counterpart?
Before I could hire Sidse Babett Knudsen on The Girl from Brest, Emmanuelle Bercot, however, wanted the approval of the pulmonologist. After all, the actress who was to play it was Danish and kept a certain accent. The real Irene Frachon could have taken it badly ….
Nay! Because it turns out that the doctor was a big fan of the series Borgen, her too ! Thus, the whole Frachon family had followed with enthusiasm the three seasons of the Danish show. Seeing her lead actress play her role was therefore a dream for her.