Helmer, StudioCanal to revisit Gallic thrillers

CANNES — John Woo and Terence Chang’s Lion Rock Prods. has teamed with France’s StudioCanal to develop modern-day remakes of three vintage French thrillers.

The pics are “Honor Among Thieves” (1968), starring Charles Bronson and Alain Delon; “Rider on the Rain” (1969), with Bronson and Marlene Jobert; and “The Prone Gunman” (1982), featuring Delon as a hitman.

“My own films have been influenced by these French thrillers. I saw ‘Honor Among Thieves’ many times over in my youth,” Woo told Daily Variety. “I want to pay tribute to them by introducing them to a new young audience.”

Pics will be packaged as “The Thriller Collection,” which could grow to include further remakes from StudioCanal’s 3,000-strong movie library.

“In the old days, movies were so much smarter, with better ideas, plots and dialogue,” said the helmer, who is making his first trip to Cannes to serve as a member of the fest’s jury.

Although the idea is to hire up-and-coming helmers on the three titles — budgeted at around $15 million to $20 million apiece — Woo, whose pic “The Killer” was based on Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 “Le Samourai,” said he is tempted to direct “Thieves” himself.

“If I have time I would like to,” he said. “I love it so much.”

Woo’s next pic will be Paramount’s remake of another Melville classic, 1970’s “The Red Circle.” After that, he plans to helm Chinese historical epic “The Battle of the Red Cliff,” based on true events from 203 A.D. Woo recently left Universal’s “Spy Hunter” project over scheduling conflicts.

“Thieves,” which starred Bronson as a doctor and Delon as a criminal who become acquainted in the French Foreign Legion, is the first project to be assigned a writer. Brit scribe David Logan (“Circus”) will transpose the action to present-day New York.

“Riders,” in which Bronson played a U.S. investigator probing a murder in the South of France, and “The Prone Gunman,” about a hired killer trying to get out of the game, also will be placed in contempo settings.

The three projects are being developed simultaneously with the aim of putting the first into production by the end of this year, with StudioCanal fully financing.

“One of the advantages of working with StudioCanal is that we have a lot of autonomy in making these films,” Chang said. “We’ll spend all the money on production and get the quality of an A movie.”

The producers will be Woo, Chang and Hugo Bergson, of Paris-based Black Mask Prods., with Caroline Macaulay and StudioCanal’s Frederic Sichler and Ron Halpern exec producing. Frederic Coquelin of Black Mask is associate producer.

As for his stint on the Cannes jury — his first experience judging a fest — Woo said: “I’m a pretty low-profile guy, and I always try to stay busy working. I just never have time, but for the Cannes festival, I made time.

“I’m so grateful that I will get a chance to see some great foreign films. It will feel like old times.”

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