Studios pact to coin big-budget sci-fier

Twentieth Century Fox and Canal Plus have reached a deal to co-finance “Babylon A.D.,” a big-budget futuristic thriller to be directed by Mathieu Kassovitz from his script.

Inspired by Maurice Dantec novel “Babylon Babies,” story is set in the near future and concerns genetic manipulation. In the book, a mercenary charged with delivering a young woman from Russia to Canada learns that she has been manipulated by a synthetic virus and what lies inside her could doom the human race.

Before he makes “Babylon,” Kassovitz will act in an untitled drama Steven Spielberg will direct this summer about the aftermath of the Munich Olympics. Kassovitz joins Eric Bana, Daniel Craig and Geoffrey Rush. DreamWorks and Universal are partnering on that pic.

“Babylon A.D.” will be produced by Alain Goldman’s Legende Films and Kassovitz’s MNP Enterprise, with Gary Ungar exec producing. Canal Plus will distribute in Europe while Fox gets domestic and overseas territories outside Europe.

Fox’s Jim Gianopulos, Hutch Parker and Peter Kang will oversee the pic, which will shoot in Eastern Europe and Canada in February.

Director’s chair

Kassovitz, who directed French films “La Haine” and “The Crimson Rivers,” has spent several years writing “Babylon A.D.”; one reason he made his Hollywood debut on “Gothika” was to prepare himself for a film whose budget could reach $70 million.

After starring in films including “Amelie,” Kassovitz had retired from acting until he got a call from his idol, Spielberg, whose style will heavily influence “Babylon A.D.”

“I love directing and became an actor mainly to learn how to deal with (directors),” he said. “I stopped when I figured that out and said that the only man who could change my mind was Steven. I plan to watch everything he does, spend three months with him and then prep my own movie in September.”

“Babylon A.D.” reteams Kassovitz with “Crimson Rivers” producer Goldman, who said the filmmaker is ready to make the leap to a large-scale film.

“Mathieu has matured as a filmmaker and now has proven himself at the box office while remaining a true artist,” Goldman said.

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