Asia’s French accent

StudioCanal looks East for inspiration on 5 pix

Several of Asia’s top helmers are getting Frenchified.

StudioCanal is tuning up a pic touted as Hong Kong helmer Johnnie To’s English-language breakout, plus a three-picture thriller collection. All four are remakes of French properties in StudioCanal’s library.

Gallic powerhouse also has an interest in “Beijing Story,” the John Woo project that will follow his epic “Red Cliff.”

Woo has ditched long-held plans to direct “The Red Circle,” a remake of Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1970’s crime drama “Le Cercle Rouge.” Helming duties on “Red Circle” are now to be taken up by To, who is fine-tuning the screenplay.

“He is already a master. But we are confident that this truly international project is the movie that will take Johnnie To to a new level of awareness around the world,” StudioCanal chief Frederic Sichler said.

“Red Circle” was set up by “Rush Hour” producer Arthur Sarkissian, who personally acquired remake rights from the Melville estate several years ago and previously envisaged “Rush Hour” helmer Brett Ratner as director.

Ratner will now take an exec producer credit on the To-helmed pic, which will lense this summer.

“We are going to make a man’s film,” Sarkissian said from the set of “Rush Hour 3.” Casting will begin in a month or so.

Credited screenwriters for “Red Circle” are Jeff Pinkner and Chap Taylor.

“Asian directors make so much sense for this collection. Many of the original films were very well known in Asia when they were first released and influenced the likes of Johnnie To and John Woo,” said Ron Halpern, StudioCanal’s VP of remakes and international productions.

“Beijing Story” is a contempo thriller penned by Steve Knight, who created “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” scripted “Dirty Pretty Things” and also scripted upcoming David Cronenberg crimer “Eastern Promises.” Set in post-Olympic Beijing, story involves a Chinese woman who is torn between two American guys.

Pic was developed at Walden Media and Bristol Bay Entertainment with Woo and Terence Chang’s Lion Rock Entertainment. It is now repped by Summit Entertainment. StudioCanal has partial rights.

StudioCanal’s other trio of remakes are “Honor Among Thieves,” based on Alain Delon-starrer “Adieu Lami”; “Max,” based on Claude Sautet’s “Max et les Ferrailleurs”; and “The Prone Gunman,” adapted from a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, which inspired “Le Choc,” starring Delon and Catherine Deneuve.

First into production is likely to be “Thieves,” a scam-cum-heist story being written by John Rogers (“Transformers”) with a view to Rogers helming and Woo mentoring.

Budget will exceed $10 million and production will likely take place in Canada. Halpern is overseeing the development of screenplays and will attach Asian helmers to the other two.

Delon, iconic star of numerous French thrillers including “Le Cercle Rouge,” recently announced on TV that he will appear in To’s “Red Circle,” but StudioCanal, Sarkissian and To’s spokesman in Hong Kong all said that no commitment exists.

“Johnnie agreed that they would like to work together, but only when they have the right material,” To’s spokesman said. “If Alain comes on board it has to be a real role, not just some cameo,” Sarkissian said.

StudioCanal last year took a bold step into the Asian film business when it agreed to finance and sell Wong Kar-wai’s first two English-language pics — “My Blueberry Nights” and “The Lady From Shanghai.” “Blueberry,” which stars Canadian singer Norah Jones in her movie debut, is being readied for delivery in May.

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