French helmer tackles first-ever English-language pic

CANNES — After a six-year layoff, Jean-Jacques Beineix will return to feature helming, with his first English-language pic, the $60 million vampire tale “Deal of the Millennium.”

The French director was in Los Angeles recently to put together the cast for the pic, which is part of the three-film development agreement he signed with Paris-based Studio Canal Plus in 1997. Beineix’s Cargo Films will co-produce, and the project is looking for a heavyweight U.S. distribution partner.

Beineix tells Daily Variety that the film will contain “lots of special effects, but it is not a special-effects movie. I want to make people dream, and the film is about a young (vampire) girl who must go through hell in order to achieve her dream.”

He said casting of at least the two twentysomething leads should be firmed up within the next few weeks. The film is expected to begin production in Paris in December.

14-year odyssey

“Deal of the Millennium” has been on Beineix’s desk for nearly 14 years, since he bought book rights for the tale off Paramount.

The Hollywood major acquired the book in 1983 with the idea that Beineix would helm, but the project became mired in the after-effects of management changes at the studio. The story centers around two young adult vampires who need a more experienced vampire to teach them to do what vampires do.

“We’re talking about four stars: a young man and woman, the teacher and the city of Paris,” says Studio Canal Plus head Brahim Chioua.

Beineix plans to film several scenes of a vampires’ eye view of the French capital — no easy task as it’s illegal to fly over the city. Beineix penned the script in French, but it has since been translated and is now being fine-tuned.

More f/x

Second film to come from the director will also be in English, although it currently has a French working title, “Reproduction Interdite.” Chioua said the project, which also will rely heavily on special effects, is a clone thriller based around a techie war between Europe and the U.S.

Beineix hasn’t shot a feature since his 1992 Yves Montand-starrer “IP5,” although he’s kept his hand in with a series of docs and has a big-budget project lined up to shoot a portrait of each of the 20 districts that make up Paris.

Reuther not

Despite Canal Plus’ production joint venture with Warner Bros., Bel Air Entertainment, Canal Plus’ Chioua said that Steve Reuther’s company wouldn’t be used to co-finance the Beineix pic.

Beineix is repped by International Creative Management’s Ken Kamins and Jeff Berg. Kamins and Berg also will be repping the North American rights to the film on behalf of Studio Canal Plus.

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