Lifetime Achievement: Francis Veber

French screenwriter and helmer Francis Veber is one of a small group of artists who have succeeded not only in their own countries and languages, but also abroad and in English. In addition, Veber is a member of an even smaller and more select group of writers: those who have been nominated for an Academy Award for a screenplay not in the English language.

In Veber’s case it was for adapted screenplay for “La Cage aux folles.” He has also been a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1985 and now receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from Cinema Expo.

Veber, who had written for television and the stage, began his screenwriting career in 1969. His first major success came three years later with his screenplay for Yves Robert’s comedy of errors “Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire” (The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe), remade as 1985’s Tom Hanks starrer “The Man With One Red Shoe.”

During the rest of the 1970s Veber was to establish his reputation for writing popular farces, six of which, including “La Cage,” would be directed by Edouard Molinaro. “La Cage” would later be adapted by Veber for Mike Nichols to direct for MGM in 1996 as “The Birdcage.”

In 1976 Veber turned his hand to direction by helming his own screenplay for “Le Jouet,” a project he would later adapt for Richard Donner to direct in English as “The Toy.” To date Veber has directed 10 pics, five of which have featured Gerard Depardieu. “Three Fugitives” in 1989, with Nick Nolte and Martin Short, was his American directorial debut.

Veber had one of his biggest hits as a director and screenwriter in 1998 with “Le Diner de cons” (The Dinner Game), the remake rights to which have already been snapped up by DreamWorks, which has also picked up the rights to his latest film, “La Doublure” (The Valet), a project that the Farrelly brothers are expected to direct.

“Veber has crafted stories that after 20 years still leave his audiences screaming with laughter. He is a filmmaking genius,” says Mitch Neuhauser, co-managing director of Cinema Expo.

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