Gallic shingle finds ‘Happiness’

Some like it Haut

“The Pursuit of Happiness,” an adaptation of Douglas Kennedy’s McCarthy-era bestseller, and helmer Laurent Cantet’s “Entre les murs” head a potent slate by French production shingle Haut et Court.

Company has also struck a co-acquisition agreement with Films Distribution, which repped France’s foreign-language Oscar nominee “Merry Christmas.”

English-language “Happiness” will be helmed by Olivier Assayas on a $15 million budget, which is biggest ever for the Carole Scotta and Caroline Benjo-headed shingle.

Kennedy will adapt his tragic love story for the big screen, his first screenplay.

“I cannot think of a better director for this project,” said Kennedy. “For this reason I’m delighted to be breaking my rule about not writing for the movies.”

Haut et Court is setting up the pic as a France-Canada-U.K. co-production and will shoot on location in Canada and the U.S. late next year after Assayas has completed “Boarding Gate” for MK2.

Cantet (“Human Resources,” “Time Out”) will once again adopt his Mike Leigh-like filmmaking tactics to develop the screenplay and determine casting for “Entre les murs.”

Pic is an adaptation of Francis Begaudeau’s novel about a teacher in a tough racially-mixed Parisian school. Nearly a year of preparation will be followed by lensing in August 2007.

“We were fascinated by Laurent’s ability to take a very current subject like education and the Paris suburbs and pull out universal themes,” Benjo said.

Haut et Court’s 2006-’07 production portfolio also includes:

  • “La vie d’artiste,” a comedy-drama about artistic aspirations by Marc Fitoussi. Helmer is a celebrated short filmmaker making his first feature. Cast includes Sandrine Kiberlain, Denis Podalydes and 1999 Cannes actress winner Emilie Dequenne (“Rosetta”).

  • “Notre univers impossible,” is a comedy-drama about a husband and wife who are rival lawyers. It is scripted and helmed by Lea Fazer.

  • Laurent Tirard will direct “Voyage en amoureux,” a broad comedy about a heterosexual coming out.

Deal with Films Distribution, which sees Haut et Court acquire French theatrical rights and Films Distribution take international, gets underway with Anne Fontaine’s “Nouvelle chance” (aka “Oh La La”) and “Avril” (“April in Love”), by first-time helmer Gerald Hustache-Mathieu.

French distribution arm is slated to release 10 pictures this year including Haut et Court’s first 3-D animation, “Piccolo Saxo et compagnie,” which preems at the Annecy toon fest in June.

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