A new version of Cyrano de Bergerac hits UK cinemas this weekend – with Peter Dinklage leading the cast for a musical update to the classic French play.
The new film, simply titled Cyrano, is based on Erica Schmidt’s 2018 musical, itself adapted from Edmond’s 1897 work Rostand.
But this quirky play is also loosely based on something else – the real-life story of Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac, a novelist, playwright, epistolary, and duelist who lived in 17th-century France.
Read on for everything you need to know about the real man.
Who was the real Cyrano de Bergerac?
Although Cyrano de Bergerac is a real person, the famous play is a heavily fictionalized account of his life – although there are obvious similarities to the historical record.
One thing that seems to be true is that he did indeed have a particularly large nose – although it seems unlikely that it was as large as has been portrayed in some stage and film versions – and it seems causing him much distress throughout his career. the life.
Born in Paris in 1619, the real Cyrano was said to have been abused by the adults in his life from an early age and was sent by his father to the University of Paris when he was only 12 years old.
After leaving university, he joined the French army and became an expert in fencing and dueling, while also serving in the Franco-Spanish war, suffering a serious wound during the siege of Arras in 1640 – whose a fictionalized version appears in the play.
It is also true that Cyrano was an accomplished writer, turning to writing once his army days were over and writing an assortment of plays and pamphlets.
Meanwhile, another aspect of the play that appears to be at least partly based on the historical record is the iconic sequence in which Cyrano confronts 100 men – as unlikely as such a feat may seem, this event has been extensively written about by his contemporaries.
However, while this character may bear more than a passing resemblance to the real Cyrano, the actual love story seems to have been Rostand’s invention.
Even though Christian and Roxanne are also based on real people, there’s no evidence to suggest a love triangle, nor anything that shows Cyrano using his blacksmith ability to help his mute companion.
How similar is Cyrano to the original piece?
While the new version of the film follows much the same fictional story as Rostand’s play, screenwriter Erica Schmidt has also made some changes which she recently explained to RadioTimes.com.
“I love Rostand’s piece and wanted to adapt it, but basically I had two main questions,” she said. “One was about the nose – in the original Cyrano, the character spends most of the play talking about his nose, and the actor wears a kind of big prosthetic nose.
“And I just thought, what if he never says what he finds physically unlikable about him? What if it’s just a mystery, and the character stays the same at leave that.
“And then the other thing that interested me was the character of Roxanne, which I love. I love that she loves words and loves poetry, but in the original Rostand sometimes I find her a bit unknowable or stiff. You know, the man says he loves her, and she says, ‘Can’t you do better?’
“And I was wondering where her agency was, and what she would feel and say when she found out she had been cheated on by the men she loves, those men she’s loved all her life.
“Then I wanted to make it a piece with fully composed music, by no means a traditional musical theater piece, but a piece where the music could become the heartbeat of the piece. And the lyrics could be from poetry in a very modern style. I looked at all the existing translations and adaptations of the play, and just scaled down what was there to make it just the necessary part and to make it feel modern and conversational, and less formal.