Why Not collects directors

Shingle keeping busy with 'Staten,' Loach film

PARIS — Like the company’s publicity-shy topper Pascal Caucheteux, the French production shingle Why Not keeps a decidedly low profile.

Perhaps not for long, though, as the producer of Jacques Audiard’s “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” Arnaud Desplechin’s “Kings and Queen” and Jean-Francois Richet’s Focus-backed English language remake of “Assault on Precinct 13” has upcoming projects with all three directors — as well as a couple more attention-grabbers in the works.

Currently shooting Stateside is the Ethan Hawke, Vincent d’Onofrio and Samuel Cassel starrer “Staten Island,” which is the helming debut of “The Negotiator” and “Assault” scribe James de Monaco. Luc Besson’s Europacorp is co-producing and handling international sales.

Thesps play three Staten Islanders whose lives intersect in “a multi-layered tale like ‘Crash,’ ” Caucheteux says.

Why Not is also about to team for the first time with Britain’s Ken Loach for a film based on Gallic striker Eric Cantona’s soccer glory with Manchester United. Cantona will play himself in the film.

From hard-core French arthouse, to a B-movie actioner like “Assault” to a Ken Loach soccer movie? What’s the connection?

“We’ve produced very different kinds of films, but the common denominator is that they are all by talented directors,” says Caucheteux, “That’s the only criterion that counts for us.”

Uncompromisingly Gallic in his methods, Caucheteux believes that producing is a hands-off business. “When we work with auteurs, they do what they like; we aren’t directive,” he says proudly.

That seems to suit a growing stable of what are practically inhouse auteurs, although the only one with a long-term contractual arrangement with Why Not is Audiard.

Helmer’s stock has soared since “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” which made $2 million at the U.S. box office and sold all over the world, winning a BAFTA for foreign- language film as well as seven Cesar awards.

Why Not will produce Audiard’s next pic, “The Prophet,” about a young man’s criminal education inside a prison, slated to shoot in the fall, and further films after that.

Desplechin is shooting “Un conte de Noel,” about an explosive family gathering at Christmas, with a cast that includes Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Devos. Pic will be sold internationally by Wild Bunch, with Bac distributing in France.

Richet recently began helming the Thomas Langmann- produced two-part actioner “Mesrine,” but he will be back with Why Not later for a drug-smuggling thriller set on the border of Mexico and the U.S.

Bruno Podalydes and Xavier Beauvois are two more helmers who belong to the Why Not stable, and a recent recruit is Claire Denis. Her “White Material,” currently lensing in Cameroon, is about a femme coffee plantation owner in an unspecified African country who refuses to leave when her adopted homeland dissolves into chaos.

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