Sci-fi actioner adapts French comicbook series

PARIS — Luc Besson is to write and direct an English-language, live-action adaptation of the sci-fi comicbook series “Valerian.”

The graphic novels were created by Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mezieres in 1967 and turn on the adventures of space and time-traveling agent Valerian and femme sidekick Laureline.

A longtime fan of the comicbooks, Besson tapped Mezieres as a conceptual designer on his sci-fi hit “The Fifth Element.”

The as-yet unnamed “Valerian” makeover was revealed by Christophe Lambert, CEO of Besson’s EuropaCorp, in Paris Friday.

Besson is set to be as busy as ever. Angelina Jolie is to star in an action thriller he will direct early next year at EuropaCorp co-owned Cite du Cinema, Lambert said.

His next movie as a director remains, however, black comedy crime thriller “Malavita,” which shoots August, starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones.

Marie-Laure Montironi, EuropaCorp international sales head, told Variety her team pre-sold “Malavita” at Cannes in every major territory, save China, Japan and Korea, which are in advanced negotiations. Buyers include Universum (Germany), Swen (Latin America), Eagle (Italy), Scanbox (Scandinavia) and Belga (Benelux).

Relativity Media co-produces and will release “Malavita” in the U.S. next year. All three movies are set up at EuropaCorp.

Reviewing EuropaCorp’s annual results, which saw the Gallic mini-major post its first profit, €100,000 ($124,600), in three years, Lambert also announced that EuropaCorp would raise capital expenditure on production from around $62.3 million over financial year 2011-12, which ended March 30, to $124.6 million for 2012-13 — returning to investment levels of financial year 2010-11.

Lambert explained the drop in investment was primarily due to a lack of productions over first semester 2011-12. “We’ve already caught up on our investment levels with approximately €40 million ($49.8 million) invested second semester.

“The 2011-12 results are an important step forward. The line-up and production momentum inspires confidence,” said Jean-Baptiste Sergeant, at Gilbert Dupont, a Paris stockbroker.

EuropaCorp’s stock price closed 20.7% up to $2.80 on Friday.

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