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The Jan. 28 release of Joe Wright’s Cyrano, in which Peter Dinklage plays the lovelorn lead, is the latest example of Hollywood’s enduring infatuation with the 1897 Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac.
Among those to play Cyrano on the silver screen were José Ferrer (1950), Christopher Plummer (1962), Gérard Depardieu (1990) and Kevin Kline (2008). And that doesn’t include modernizations — the most memorable of which is 1987’s Roxanne. In that version, written by and starring a 41-year-old Steve Martin (Australia’s Fred Schepisi directed), the lead is not a French Army cadet but a small-town fireman named Charlie “C.D.” Bales who is self-conscious about his abnormally long nose.
Daryl Hannah, then 26, was offered the part of Roxanne Kowalski, a beautiful astronomer who comes to town in search of a passing comet. But Hannah, looking to move away from playing love interests, was reluctant to take it. “Steve and Fred asked me to come in and talk to them about what my reservations were,” recalls Hannah. “I went in and the next thing I know, they walked me right into a cast read-through. I had such a good time, I went with it. And I’m glad I did.”
In the film, C.D. falls for Roxanne, but she instead has her eye on a dim-witted fireman hunk named Chris (Rick Rossovich). Thus unfolds a tragicomic series of events in which C.D., a natural poet, feeds romantic lines to Chris via radio headset. Unlike in the original, which ends tragically, in Roxanne, C.D. ends up with the girl. And Martin ended up with his biggest hit since 1979’s The Jerk, earning $39 million ($95 million in 2022) on a $12 million budget. The film also earned him a WGA Award for best screenplay based on material from another medium.
Ahead of Roxanne‘s release, Martin told The Washington Post, “I believe we’re always the same people. … I don’t care how hip we are, how smart we are, what our new technology is. Everybody is just as prejudiced and just as good and just as evil as they’ve always been. And just as much suckers for romance.”
This story first appeared in the Jan. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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