“Papillon” then, “Papillon” now

Watching the old “Papillon” as a way of prepping for the new “Papillon” — Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in a Franklin “Patton” Schaffner film then, an epic that has improved with age. Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malik in a Michael Noer (Danish native, relatively unknown) film now. All these cameos and actors later to become famous — the screenwriter Dalton Trumbo as a commandant, Vic Tayback (Mel on TV’s “Alice”) and Len Lesser (“Seinfeld’s” Uncle Leo) as guards, George Couloris of “Citizen Kane” as a prison doctor, Richard Farnsworth (“The Straight Story”) as a manhunter (no lines), Billy Mumy, and on and on. It was practically a make-work project for Hollywood character actors.

No way the new one will have the scale and scope of the original, but a leaner more brisk “Papillon” can’t be a bad thing. As dense with incident and characters as the narrative is, I could see this as an Amazon or HBO limited series — maybe five hours (Schaffner’s was over 2:45.

My favorite book in high school. Must’ve read it a dozen times. August 24, another take on one of the great adventure yarns (partly true, largely exaggerated) hits the screen.

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