When Dany Boon’s “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” (Welcome to the Sticks) — about a southern postman reassigned to France’s backwoods north — was released in early 2008, few would have predicted the boffo biz to come.
Ten months later, “Sticks” has cumed more than $210 million in its home country, becoming the highest-grossing French film in local history, and second all-time B.O. scorer behind “Titanic.” Last spring, Will Smith nabbed the rights to a remake, due out in 2010.
A standup vet with a background in one-man shows and sketch comedy, the 42-year-old Boon spent years perfecting the speech-slurring character he played in the movie, his second helming effort to date. Both heartfelt romantic comedy and social farce, “Sticks” attacked long-standing French stereotypes of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, where Boon himself grew up. Behind the impenetrable local accents and unappealing food, he sought to reveal the genuinely friendly spirit of his fellow northerners, and the French public clearly caught on.
Now a sort of Gallic national treasure, Boon will be toplining three films skedded for release in 2009. He recently replaced comic fave Jamel Debbouze as the star of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s upcoming arms industry satire “Micmac,” currently in production.