France's best-known dramatist directing film

Yasmina Reza, France’s best-known dramatist, will make her film helming debut on “Introducing Fernand,” toplining Carmen Maura, Bouli Lanners and Emmanuelle Seigner.

The dysfunctional family tragicomedy begins shooting in February. It is being produced by Said Ben Said’s SBS Films for Gallic major UGC.

UGC, which is distributing the pic in France, will finance with paybox Canal Plus and pubcaster channel France 2; UGC Intl. is handling overseas rights outside France.

“Fernand” cleaves close to Reza’s drama work, adapting the play within the play in her “A Spanish Piece,” staged by Manhattan’s Classic Stage Company and helmed by John Turturro. In the best of French tradition, it reveals not-so-seemly truths under a bourgeois facade.

Maura, Pedro Almodovar’s earliest muse, plays a Spanish widow named Pilar who has raised her three daughters in France. She falls in love with Fernand, the manager of her apartment building. But a lunch at which she introduces Fernand to her daughters proves a disaster, underscoring their tensions and insecurities.

Belgian thesp-helmer Lanners plays one of the daughters’ feckless husbands. Seigner (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “La Vie en rose”) plays Pilar’s daughter Nuria, a celeb actress who’s utterly alone.

Reza’s fourth play, 1994’s “Art,” made her a literary star. Translated into English by Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher Hampton (“Dangerous Liaisons”), it has been performed in 35 languages, reportedly grossed $200 million and won a Moliere, an Olivier and a Tony.

Reza’s plays have toplined Ralph Fiennes, Alan Alda, Michael Gambon, Alfred Molina and Isabelle Huppert.

“Dawn Evening Night,” Reza’s book portrait of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, was France’s literary event of 2007.

“Yasmina Reza has almost always had critical and commercial success at the same time, which makes her unique in France,” said Ben Said, UGC Intl. prexy.

As in all of Reza’s work, “Fernand” explores broad themes — “mother-and-daughter relationships, solitude and togetherness,” added Said.

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