After “The Adventures of Rabbi Jacob”, the director Gérard Oury was to find his favorite actor and friend Louis de Funès for a fifth collaboration with the comedy “The Crocodile”. Alas, the film never succeeded and remains cursed.
The Crocodile: the cursed comedy of Gérard Oury
After the success of the film The Adventures of Rabbi Jacob in 1973, the director Gérard Oury wishes to collaborate for the fifth time with Louis de Funès with the comedy The crocodile. In the style of Charlie Chaplin and his cult film The dictatorthe feature film had to be a caricature of totalitarian regimes at the end of the 20th century. It was to constitute, with Rabbi Jacoba second chapter on intolerance.
Thus, Louis de Funès had to interpret a dictator named Hook (in reference to Augusto Pinochet) who found himself betrayed by everyone around him, starting with his wife who had an affair with the chief of police. Determined to put him in power, she made sure to put her husband in prison. But against all odds, Hook ended up uniting with his ex-adversaries to establish a far-left dictatorship in all respects similar to the far-right one he exercised before being imprisoned.
In July 1974, Gérard Oury and his daughter Danièle Thompson (who co-wrote the film) left for Greece to scout locations. Shooting was to begin on May 14, 1975 in Athens. But in March of the same year, Louis de Funès suffered two successive heart attacks. Doctors consider him unfit to play in the film, which requires good physical condition. The crocodile is therefore abandoned, despite a very advanced pre-production (a pre-poster even appears in the magazine Le Film Français).
Gerard Oury is very affected by the fact of not being able to find his friend Louis de Funès for this new comedy. Thus, he said on this subject in an interview with France-Soir:
I wrote for Louis — who has been my friend for ten years — a screenplay in which every wink, every gesture, every gag is specifically intended for him. His role is not a cloak that we can now throw on the shoulders of another actor. To replace Louis, it would take considerable changes. Louis’ illness — which upset me on a friendly level — caused me to lose a year and a half of my professional life. But I have other ideas for topics, other projects, other signed contracts. My dearest wish nevertheless remains to be able to work with Louis de Funès
New attempt with Peter Sellers
In 1979, Gérard Oury tried to relaunch The crocodile with British actor Peter Sellers, who accepts. The director reworks the screenplay with Jim Moloney to make it more American. But on July 24, 1980, the actor died following a heart attack. The director, dismayed, will say that three heart attacks for the same film is “a bit much”. After this new incident, Danièle Thompson takes fright and forbids her father to make the film:
Never two without three: the next time, it will be you. I don’t want you to do the movie.
In 1982, Louis de Funès and Gérard Oury met in the studio while the first was post-synchronizing the film The Gendarme and the Gendarmettes and the second that of The Ace of Aces. They would then have evoked a new version of the comedy The Crocodile, in which Louis de Funès would have less physical effort to make. But the project is definitively buried in January 1983 after the actor’s death from a new heart attack…