Gallic gangster pix back on track

Langmann revives Mesrine project

French producer Thomas Langmann has revived an ambitious two-film project about notorious French gangster Jacques Mesrine, with Vincent Cassel starring.

Pathe has boarded the pics, taking French distribution and handling international sales on “Death Instinct” and “Public Enemy No. 1,” directed by Jean-Francois Richet.

Marion Cottillard and Eva Green are attached to play two women who were Mesrine’s loves and also partners in crime at different points in his life. Script was penned by Abdel Raouf Dafri.

The Mesrine pics will be shot simultaneously in Canada and France over 30 weeks starting in May. The story of the two-parter’s journey has twists and turns worthy of the colorful life of Mesrine — who robbed banks, kidnapped people and escaped from prison eight times, until French police gunned him down in 1979.

The Mesrine project came close to realization four years ago, with Barbet Schroeder helming and UGC putting up the coin. But it went belly-up when Cassel pulled out for artistic and timing reasons and then, in the wake of the costly box office flop “Blueberry,” the French film company and Langmann went their separate ways, affecting this and several other projects.

Langmann continued to develop “Mesrine” via his indie shingle La Petite Reine, at one point coming to physical blows with top Paris agent Francois Samuelson during negotiations to have Benoit Magimel in the lead.

The producer is currently helming “Asterix at the Olympic Games,” the third episode in Gaul’s hit live-action franchise. “Mesrine was the biggest gangster France has ever known, and a lot happened in the 20 years the two films will cover,” Langmann said.

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