What kind of world does Maigret investigate in Maigret In Montmartre?
“It’s Georges Simenon’s favourite arena, which is the seedy side of Paris. The clubs, the girls, the
prostitution and the low life. Montmartre was the centre of that sort of thing in the mid-1950s.
“Also, it’s indicative of the author’s infatuation with young women. And particularly young women
of the streets or young women who were forced to work in a certain way.
“The character of showgirl Arlette reflects Georges Simenon’s interest in a woman who is so
completely alluring. Extremely libidinous as a teenager and then, inevitably really, ending up in a
club and being used by a string of men in different ways.
“But at the same time, she has clearly got charisma and magic and she leaves her stamp. Men find
her completely irresistible. That’s what the story is about. Someone who, unsurprisingly given that
power she has over men, gets into a lot of trouble.
“The owner of the nightclub Fred is pretty villainous but also surprising. It’s a very interesting story.
I think this is the best Maigret film yet. With some very good performances.”
What impression does Arlette make on Maigret?
“There is a sense that Maigret is drawn in to her and her vulnerability. Someone who is very
attractive and alluring but also very vulnerable. Maigret feels that and feels the need to care for
How does Maigret handle the situation he finds himself in and what does he think of Club Le Picratt
and that shady part of Paris?
“We portray him, as Georges Simenon did, as a very decent married man. Not someone - as I’m sure
was probably common in his line of work then - who has affairs or gets seduced in that way. He’s a
surprisingly upright and decent man. And yet he is constantly dealing in the murk of Parisian low life.
It’s the effect it has on him.
“He is drawn to it because he seeks justice and truth. But at the same time, it’s not a world in which
you would expect him to feel comfortable. It’s a constant dichotomy. He’s drawn in and yet he doesn’t
feel comfortable there.
“You sense his uncertainty. He certainly doesn’t relish that world. He doesn’t embrace it. But at the
same time he knows you have to, to a certain extent, in order to find out what’s going on.”
Do we get to see more of a personal side of Maigret in this film?
“Yes, I think we see Maigret and his wife at their most intimate yet. It’s all very subtle. But certainly, it’s
indicative of the success of their relationship. He’s definitely a happily married man. Maigret and his
wife get on very well.
“And that’s important in relation to his work. Because it’s so odd for such a decent man to have to deal
with such indecent people and worlds. It is that contrast between the decency and the success in
relationship terms of Maigret’s own life compared to the complete and utter failure of the people he’s
dealing with in this story.”
What was the biggest challenge whilst filming Maigret in Montmartre?
“The weather was absolutely terrible. When I stepped off the plane to film in Budapest in January, it
was minus 15. It was bitterly cold. The Danube froze over. I remember looking out of my hotel room
when it was, effectively, completely solid. And then for a few weeks after there were just these massive
ice flows on the river.
“There was one scene I wasn’t in where someone is almost killed by another character. They were
down by a lake where, in the script, it was supposed to be an attempt at murder by drowning. But
because it was minus 12 that night the lake was frozen solid and we had to devise a new method to
almost do away with the character.”
As you’ve developed the character of Maigret have you become slightly more expansive in the way
you play him?
“Yes. I feel as though I started to relax with the character a bit more and have a bit more fun with
Maigret and make him a little more human. Rather than just someone who is rather stern, which is
how I think he was in the first couple of films. I was a bit braver with him, I suppose.”
The showgirls at the club put on a performance in their own way. When did you first realise that you
wanted to perform?
“It was at school. I seem to remember when I was 11 or 12 standing up in front of my fellow pupils in
the school changing room and doing some kind of performance. I can’t remember what it was but it
was undoubtedly supposed to be at least comic and aimed at amusing them.
“I started doing school plays and then carried on through my adolescence in secondary school and on
to university. The age of 10, 11, 12 was when I remember doing, let’s say, spontaneous performances
for my peers.”
TV drama is now on a global stage and can be seen to rival the film world. How do you feel about
“It certainly isn’t the poor relation compared to the film and movie world. There’s no doubt that when
you look at the quality of drama on TV there are some very high production values with lots of money
“You can see it draws the talent in. Directors from film are seeing the value of television drama. That
actually it doesn’t have to be too obvious, it doesn’t have to be overtly commercial. It just has to be
good. And you can have scenes that go on for much longer than scenes would normally go on for, in
movies even. Because you don’t have to tell the whole story in an hour and a half. You can tell it over
nine hours. That’s a huge freedom and a huge difference.”
Do people recognise you when you travel on public transport?
“What I’ve had once or twice is people saying, ‘Oh, hello. I know you. Oh…what’s your name again?’
And I say, ‘Rowan Atkinson.’ And they say, ‘No, no, no.’ A most peculiar idea where you tell people your
name and they don’t believe you. Or they assume you’re joking. That you’ve made something up.
“For your identity to be denied to your face is potentially quite disturbing. It does happen. In many
ways, you prefer people to be sure about recognising you rather than unsure. It’s the unsure people
who take longer to deal with, I’d say.”
Maigret In Montmartre will be screened over the festive period. How do you feel about Christmas as
a festival today? Has it become too commercialised?
“It is difficult. It’s the shortness of it, actually. I like the idea of a long Christmas. I like the idea of a
Christmas that starts on Christmas Day and ends, in fact by chance, on my birthday on the 6th of
January. They are the 12 days of Christmas.
“Whereas what tends to happen is there is such a huge build up. But once Christmas Day is over,
people think Christmas is over. For the majority of people that’s it. And then it’s into the sales the next
day. Or this huge online business that starts later on Christmas Day and merges into the following day.
“And that’s fine. But it’s a very good idea for Christmas to be a time of rest and consider it a time when
you are quiet and family-oriented.
“Of course, not everybody has the facility to rest and some people are back to work the day after
Boxing Day. But if you have the mental space and the physical capability of switching off and relaxing
then that is a good idea.
“Seeing as the build up to Christmas is always so hectic. Once it’s there, just enjoy it and relax. Rather
than thinking, ‘Now what I should be doing?’”