At the top of the 370 steps of the watchtower of “Fort Boyard”, he waits, impassive, ready to stick the candidate who comes to rub shoulders with his riddles. While some things have changed at the Fort this season, including the removal of tigers to respect animal welfare, the mysterious old man is unstoppable.
It has been 33 seasons that Father Fouras has been interviewing the candidates for the cult France 2 program – of which a new episode is broadcast on Saturday July 30 – and almost as long as Yann Le Gac embodies this emblematic character. The comedian from Morbihan, who will celebrate his 68th birthday in August, did not think that this costume would still stick to his skin three decades later. Here are five things you may not know about the person who plays Father Fouras.
1Emeritus dancer before becoming an actor
Before establishing his summer quarters off La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime), Yann Le Gac first dreamed of being a dancer. As a teenager, he was advised to do tap dancing, modern dance, then classical dance. He manages to integrate “the best classical dance class in Paris, that of Serge Golovine, avenue George V, where the dancers of the Opera came”he says in 2021 to The Team Magazine (article subscribers). Then direction Brussels, where he joined the school of the dancer Maurice Béjart. In 1973, his name appears in the cast of several of the choreographer’s shows.
“It was pumped up in my time, a boy who dances. I did it for eight hours a day, more than fifteen years. You can imagine the body it shaped me… I pay for it: I have osteoarthritis all over!Yann Le Gac
at “L’Equipe Magazine”
He performs all over the world: the Bolshoi in Moscow, the Scala in Milan, the Fenice in Venice or the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. But in the mid-1980s, his body said stop. “Dancing never stops, it’s physical madness”does he concede to Sunday newspaper. He now dreams of being an actor and his meeting with the famous agent Dominique Besnehard precipitates this reorientation. He even passes the tests for the role finally held by Jean-Hugues Anglade in 37º2 in the morningas he explains in Gala.
Yann Le Gac joined the troupe in the early 1990s of actors directed by the director Alexis Tikovoï. He rubs shoulders with Marie Trintignant, Anne Parillaud and Tina Sportolaro. She remembers a man “very open, friendly and jovial”. “His atypical career amazed me, he had already had a professional life as a dancer with Maurice Béjart.”
2The first Father Fouras, it was not him
Yann Le Gac joined “Fort Boyard” during the second season, in 1991. He replaced the Belgian actor Michel Scourneau, ousted for reasons that differ, depending on the main concerned. In the documentary TV game mastersbroadcast in 2019 on France 5, the former host of “Fort Boyard” Patrice Laffont argues that the success of the show prompted Michel Scourneau to revise its requirements upwards. “He did a little bit of blackmailing the production saying, ‘Oh guys, now maybe we should piss off a little bit'”says Patrice Laffont.
A version denied by the actor. “When my agent offered me to do Father Fouras, I wasn’t extremely hot and I had therefore negotiated a fairly high fee. I had obtained 250,000 francs to shoot the whole season, for France and Germany”does he defend himself in Le Figaro. He adds that he refused the seven-year contract which had been offered to him at the start, preferring not to commit to the long term.
When the time for renegotiation for the second season comes, Pierre Sportolaro, the director of production, wants to renew it, but with a less significant cachet. “I told him that I did not agree. I wanted the same contractsays Michel Scourneau. The discussion had stopped there and I had had no further news thereafter. But I never asked for more because I knew I was already paid very well.”
Whatever the reasons, the production then had to relaunch a casting. “My brother Pierre had asked me if I didn’t know any actors who might be interested”, actress Tina tells franceinfo sports equipment “I thought of Yann because he had this background. The other young actors did not stick. He was the most coherent candidate.”
3He didn’t expect to make old bones at the Fort
When he enters the Fort, Yann Le Gac does not think he takes thirty years. “I thought I was just going to take a fee once. But the game was a hit, I was asked the next year to continue, and so on…”he explained in 2019 to Telegram. At that time, Yann Le Gac continued his career as an actor and this passage through the TV box was not necessarily seen with a good eye.
“Marie Trintignant was very reserved: ‘You’re crazy, don’t have to. Plus a game…’ Doing TV was very frowned upon. I had answered her: ‘I’ll have a mask, I’m going disguise my voice, no problem.'”Yann Le Gac
“When Yann signed, the duration was not at all the subject, confirms Tina Sportolaro. We weren’t projecting ourselves in time.” He ends up getting caught up in the game and has never left the costume, even when he wants to focus on the artistic production of the show. In 2002, he was briefly replaced by Didier Hervé, another actor. But this replacement does not last. “He there was a request from the channel and the production for me to come back: the viewers had realized that it was no longer me, because of the voice and the eyes, in particular”does he advance in The Telegram.
4 Becoming Father Fouras, a physical requirement
Wearing the costume of Father Fouras is not easy. This requires at least 45 minutes of make-up and thirty minutes to get dressed. At the beginning of his adventure, “IThe mask was very heavy and thick, like a balaclava that hurt my neck”says Yann Le Gac at Telegram. The costume, which he says resembles “a torn sack of potatoes”is made of silk and remains heavy. Over the years, the paraphernalia has become lighter, but what demands the most energy from the actor is the very special, humming voice of Father Fouras.
“It costs me ten times more effort to say a sentence in ‘Père Fouras’ than with my normal voice. This character is very vampirizing in terms of energy.”Yann Le Gac
at “L’Equipe Magazine”
And when it all adds up, with the takes to be done, sometimes in conditions that don’t match his costume (heat, cramped conditions), he can sweat profusely. “I’m always scared when I have to move, because I know I am going to pay it. When I take off my toga, I’m soaked to twist my t-shirt”he admits in the sports daily magazine.
5The man who designs the tests of… “Koh Lanta”
In “Fort Boyard”, Yann Le Gac not only poses the puzzles concocted by a team of authors, he also designs the tests. And, since 2003, he has held the same position for the TF1 program “Koh-Lanta”. “J‘invent the games and I put them in place’he reveals on Europe 1 in 2019. A role which has earned him the nickname of “executioner” with the candidates. “The key is to give the illusion that the trials seem simple and obvious to everyone at first glance. At the start, it is often me who launches the idea and the work of reflection begins with the team”he describes to the Huffington Post.
“It’s a daunting task. You should see the intensity in the creative workshops (…) We’re blowing our brains out.”Yann Le Gac
at the Huffington Post
The man behind the orienteering race that qualifies for the final? It’s him. He does not conceal a certain pride in having imagined it. “It is an extremely complicated event in the elaboration, but ultimately very simple for the viewers to see and follow. It’s a test that always offers unexpected twists and I love it!”he slips.
If he did not invent the test of the posts, he readjusted it by seeing perched pelicans. “I thought to myself, ‘Hey, what’s purer than that?’ he describes to Europe 1. Because the problem is to always find games that are fair, big or small, strong or not. Especially when it comes to the final.”