Cast includes Delon, Cornillac, Depardieu

It’s often said that comedy doesn’t travel, but the 2002 Asterix sequel, “Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra,” grossed a tidy $36 million outside of France. With its astounding $74 million take in its home country, it’s the third-biggest French pic ever.

The third installment in the comicbook-based series, “Asterix at the Olympic Games,” is France’s biggest-budgeted film to date, at E78 million ($101 million). It’s also the film that lured Gallic screen legend Alain Delon back onto a movie set.

Pic, produced by Thomas Langmann’s La Petite Reine and Pathe, gets a January release in France. Cast, which was unveiled at the 2005 Cannes Film Fest, includes hot thesp Clovis Cornillac (“A Very Long Engagement”) and Gerard Depardieu, who played Obelix in the two previous pics.

The previous installment managed to gross $3 million in the U.S. — not bad, considering the goofy comedy is the polar opposite of the romantic yuppie fare that normally appeals to Stateside foreign film fans.

But France as well as the rest of Europe loved the two previous Asterix pics. According to Pathe chief exec Jerome Seydoux, pre-sales on the upcoming pic have been made to most of continental Europe.

Fans were surprised by Delon’s decision to return to the screen, as a few years ago he proclaimed that since most of his favorite directors were dead, he didn’t want to act in films anymore. But after working steadily in TV for a few years, he’s enthusiastically jumped back into film.

He’ll also appear in “L’ennemi public no. 1,” (Public Enemy No. 1), based on the book by notorious French criminal Jacques Mesrine, who died in a police shootout in 1979. According to Gallic press reports, he also agreed to appear in Johnnie To’s next film.

Langmann, who is making his directing debut with the third Asterix feature, also is producing “L’ennemi public no 1.”

As is often the case in France’s movie biz, “Asterix” is a bit of a family affair: Langmann’s father, Claude Berri, still one of the most powerful men in Gallic cinema, produced the two previous Asterix pics and got La Petite Reine on board to co-produce the second Asterix film.

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