Film is studio's first French-language project

Universal’s first local-language French pic will be based on the life of Gaul’s iconic singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, who died in 1991.

“Serge Gainsbourg (vie heroique)” will mark graphic novelist Joann Sfar’s debut as a helmer.

Eric Elmosnino has been tapped to play the chanteur who was as famous for his glamorous lovers, including Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin, as he was for penning such hits as “Je t’aime … moi non plus.”

French model Laetitia Casta will play Bardot, with Mylene Jampanoi set to play Gainsbourg’s last paramour, Bambou, and Anna Mouglalis tapped to play French singer Juliette Greco, who collaborated with Gainsbourg for many years.

Pic will trace Gainsbourg from his youth growing up in 1940s Nazi-occupied Paris, when he was called Lucien Ginsberg, through to his transformation into the hard-living showman. He died in 1991 at age 62.

Pic starts lensing Jan. 19 in Paris for 13 weeks. Universal Pictures Intl. Studio is co-producing with Studio 37, the production banner of French telco giant Orange.

One World Films’ Marc du Pontavice and Didier Lupfer are producing, with Sfar also penning the screenplay.

“Joann Sfar’s cutting-edge creativity and unique take on the character of Serge Gainsbourg is what really drew us to this project,” said Universal Pictures Intl. Studio prexy Christian Grass.

U will retain French theatrical and homevideo rights to the pic, which will be released in France in 2010.

Studio 37 gets the international rights, which will be handled by Kinology. Since launching in February, Universal Pictures Intl. Studio has been ramping up its local-language activities under Grass. The studio announced in May that it was co-funding Pedro Almodovar’s “Broken Embraces,” which reunites the Spanish helmer with muse Penelope Cruz.

UPI, along with Focus Features, is also co-funding Korean helmer Park Chan-wook’s vampire pic “Thirst.”

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