'With Love' delayed due to fire

PARIS — Location shooting for crime pic “From Paris With Love” was called off before it began following arson fires in one of Paris’ most economically deprived suburbs.

Ten stunt and special effects vehicles left in a stadium parking lot and in adjacent streets in the town of Montfermeil northeast of Paris were torched before dawn Monday.

The $52 million feature, toplining John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers and produced by Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, had sparked a great amount of media attention in France.

The town and surrounding areas have yet to recover economically after being badly hit by several days of rioting three years ago.

During October and November 2005, violent clashes between police and protestors — mainly from poorer north African immigrant communities — began in several suburbs northeast of Paris before spreading across the country. Nearly four weeks of civil unrest ensued.

Hundreds of Montfermeil residents were hoping to take part in the week-long shoot for “From Paris With Love,” mainly as extras, or as security and catering staff — a condition insisted upon by Mayor Xavier Lemoine.

“I am sad for all the residents who would have taken part in this production, and I hope Luc Besson appreciated their level of enthusiasm,” Lemoine said at a Monday evening press conference.

According to a EuropaCorp spokesman, production has been “postponed, but not abandoned for the moment.”

Police have launched an investigation. Two security guards hired by EuropaCorp reported seeing someone carrying what looked like a can of gasoline across the stadium parking lot late Sunday.

Criminal investigations have also begun into allegations that some people had been pressuring Besson into hiring even more locals, at higher wages.

Helmed by Pierre Morel (“Taken”), “From Paris” filming began in late September in the Alpine city of Annecy, and is set to continue for the next 2½ months in other locations around France.

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