Meridian Pictures To Produce Vadim Perelman’s ‘The Last Executioner,’ Co-Written By Ukrainian Soldier Andrii Khokholkin

Meridian Pictures’ Eric Paquette will produce The Last Executioner, a new project from director Vadim Perelman that he co-wrote with Andrii Khokholkin.

Khokholkin, who has been a writer on several projects in Ukraine, is currently in the Ukrainian army, having joined the armed forces following the Russian invasion.

The Last Executioner tells the story of Henri-Clément Sanson who held the position of Royal Executioner of Paris, serving King Louis-Philippe I from 1840 to 1847. Sanson was from a long time of executioners. His father was the city’s chief executioner for 47 years, and his grandfather Charles-Henri Sanson also was the executioner of royal figures and those trying to spark revolution.

“The job was passed on, grandfather to father to son, and so it was a whole family of outcasts who were feared, they were almost like supernatural creatures,” said Perelman (House of Sand and Fog, Persian Lessons).

He said that the project was “really a cool story of guilt, of conscience, of father, son, of familial debts and things we carry from our parents and grandparents. … It’s a story on the background of a world we haven’t seen.”

Perelman said that Khokholkin brought the project to him when he was in Kyiv. The director said that he was intrigued by the idea and the period, but suggested that they make it a personal story. They then collaborated on a screenplay, with Khokholkin doing a draft in Russian and then Perelman in English.

Khokholkin, speaking from a military base, said that a Ukrainian tradition inspired him with the idea: it’s considered bad luck to put a loaf of bread upside down on the table. Khokholkin, who was working at an advertising agency at the time, sought to find out the origins of the superstition. Among the stories he found was that in France in the 19th Century, bakers would put out the bread meant for executioners, because they were considered outcasts, upside down. That eventually led him to the history of the Sanson family, which proved to be an “incredible revelation” to pursue the project, Khokholkin said.

He said that his decision to join the Ukrainian army was kind of “automatic” and “there was no decision to be made.” He said that he always felt that there would be a war with Russia. He had been part of the Maidan, the series of demonstrations in 2013, an experience that proved to be emotionally wrenching.

When the war started in February, and the Russians were coming so close to Kyiv, he said that he “really had no choice but do it.” He is currently in training, but said that he believes he very soon may be in combat. He’s also lost a few friends.

Paquette, who launched Meridian last year, said in a statement that he and Perelman “share a deep desire to tell stories, which will have a profound impact on audiences around the world. I am also excited to get this movie made in honor of our co-writer Andrii who is fighting for his country’s survival.”

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