Released in 2005, “Le Petit lieutenant” is Xavier Beauvois’ fourth feature film. The latter had originally planned to give the main role of the film to a man. And not just any.
The Little Lieutenant: welcome to the judicial police
Xavier Beauvois is one of those French filmmakers about whom little is said, but who often see their productions being rewarded in the most important French ceremonies. Indeed, the one who has been leading a career as an actor and director since the early 90s, has already received two César nominations as well as a Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival when he directs The Little Lieutenant in 2005.
For his fourth film, the director has surrounded himself with a solid cast made up of Nathalie Baye, Jalil Lespert, Roschdy Zem and Jacques Perrin in particular. Note that as usual, Xavier Beauvois also plays a role in his own feature film.
The Little Lieutenant follows Antoine (Jalil Lespert), who, on leaving the police academy, joins the prestigious PJ of Paris. He is integrated into the crim ‘group, led by Caroline Vaudieu (Nathalie Baye), who has just returned to the service after having overcome her alcoholism. Antoine will thus discover his new universe, and build a solid relationship with his boss who quickly attaches to him.
Caroline Vaudieu … had to be a man
Originally, Xavier Beauvois had planned that Antoine’s hierarchical superior be a man. Thus, he wanted it to be Jacques Dutronc who interprets it. Indeed, the famous French songwriter has also been a regular actor since the early 1970s. He has even been nominated 4 times for the César, also receiving an honorary César for his entire career in 2005.
Only, the actor ends up retracting from the film The little lieutenant. Xavier Beauvois then decided to call on Nathalie Baye, with whom he had already worked on his previous feature film entitled According to Matthew. He then rewrites the character which becomes feminine.
A decision he does not regret, as he confided in an interview for Why Not Productions :
It brings tenderness. We are more moved, everything is much more fragile than if it were a man. I can no longer imagine the last scene of the film with a man: I could not have ended with a man’s face. And a woman who drinks is always sadder than a man.
Note, moreover, that the only César of the film is that obtained by Nathalie Baye for her performance. Xavier Beauvois was therefore right.