Third 'Asterix' film opens Jan. 30 in France

PARIS¬†– Producer Thomas Langmann may have an upper-crust pedigree, but he’s no pretentious artfilm impresario.

Instead, the 37-year-old son of producer-director Claude Berri and nephew of producer Paul Rassam is shepherding one of Europe’s biggest and most commercial films ever, the $115 million “Asterix at the Olympic Games,” which he co-directed and co-produced.

The third installment in the lucrative “Asterix” series bows Jan. 30 in France. Despite the pic’s hefty pricetag, Langmann’s La Petite Reine shingle and co-producer Pathe have spread out the risk though tactics such as in an unprecedented number of tie-in deals with Nestle, Volkswagen and Toshiba, with full participation of stars Gerard Depardieu and Alain Delon. In France at least, Langmann says, “It’s not a question of if ‘Asterix’ does well, it’s how well it will do.”

But “Asterix” is just the beginning — he’s got one of the weightiest — and bloodiest — production slates on the continent.

  • Louis Leterrier will segue from helming U’s “The Hulk” to direct “Blacksad,” from the comicstrip about a detective who takes the form of a black cat, skedded for 2009. Budget could be as high as $90 million-$100 million.

  • La Petite Reine has just signed Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who made their debut with intense French slasher pic “Inside” — for “Neiges,” “an action-packed thriller with fantasy elements,” Langmann says.

  • “Vanikoro,” from Xavier Gens (“Frontiere(s)”), chronicles the true story of a disastrous 18th century French expedition that ended in shipwreck and cannibalism.

  • “Fantomas,” which Langmann is co-writing, is a modern take on the character of the famous French criminal filmed from silent pics up to TV films directed by Claude Chabrol and Luis Bunuel. The update is budgeted in the $65 million-$75 million range.

It’s an ambitious list for a young producer, but Langmann has had success raising coin for big-budget projects — he’s already raised $75 million for the upcoming “Public Enemy,” a two-part biopic of French master criminal Jacques Mesrine, starring Vincent Cassel.

Langmann’s ability to continue making such ambitious projects is to some extent dependent on the success of “Asterix” — but based on the first two installments, which were boffo in France, he should be able to ride the big-budget train for some time to come.

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