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Cannes: ‘Breakers’ Sequel Team Springs Back at Franco (EXCLUSIVE)

With their Muse Prods. shingle hanging on such edgy fare as “American Psycho,” “Freeway,” “Buffalo 66” and “Spring Breakers,” producers Chris and Roberta Hanley are no strangers to controversy; however, there’s something in the spring air this year that has gotten them more than their share of colorful press.

Earlier this month, former business partner on the Harmony Korine-directed hit pic “Spring Breakers” Wicks Walker sued Muse and fellow producer Jordan Gertner of Hero Entertainment for breach of contract.

This week, as the Hanleys and Gertner were landing in Cannes to start tubthumping several projects, including the upcoming sequel “Spring Breakers: The Second Coming,” their star of the original picture, James Franco (pictured above in the film), took to Instagram to denounce the sequel as “not being done with Harmony Korine or my consent,” acidly adding, “it will be a horrible film.”

The Hanleys and Gertner spoke to Variety exclusively about this Franco dustup, giving back a little acid to Franco of their own.

“Let’s see if I can remember all of the sequels James has done.” laughed Chris Hanley, helpfully listing “‘The Great and Mighty Oz,’ ‘Spider Man,’ ‘Planet of the Apes'” while also noting “and he’s pushing hard to help set up the ‘Pineapple Express’ sequel. I guess he thinks only ‘too big to fail studio films’ are the artistically valid ventures.”

On a more serious note, Hanley noted that the new film will be directed by “Spun” director Jonas Akerlund from an original screenplay by “Trainspotting” author Irvine Welsh.

“These aren’t weak or lame artists” said Hanley “and I think our track record speaks for itself.”

In Roberta’s view, “We’ve done nothing but smuggle important artists into Hollywood.” Stressing the new film as a fresh take, Gertner said “We had a great relationship with Harmony Korine and now we’re exploring a new incarnation of ‘Spring Breakers.'”

Gertner also noted that Muse and Hero “have all rights to all prequels, sequels, remakes, animation spinoffs.” Citing the European legal terms for ownerships, Chris Hanley noted, “We have the certificate of authorship for this work.”

Muse and various partners are also involved in a spate of equally edgy projects, including their film adaptation of Martin Amis’s “London Fields” starring Amber Heard and featuring Johnny Depp, which has wrapped photography under direction of Martin Cullen and will be ready for the fall festival season.

Other projects include spy thriller “An Expensive Education,” from the novel by Nick McDonell. Roberta Hanley, who wrote the pic’s screenplay, describes it as “the beginning of a great espionage franchise that explores present day high tech surveillance in great terrifying detail.” The producers are out to directors on “Education.”

And finally, perhaps fastest on the track to productions is their Cannes announcement of Michael Winterbottom’s new film “The Vatican Connection,” based upon the true story of NYPD Detective Joe Coffey.

Orignal Edgar Allen Poe Prize-winning tome, chronicling a global trail of intrigue involving billions of dollars, Vatican bankers and a shadowy worldwide conspiracy, was penned by New York Times journalist Richard Hammer. Pic’s screenplay will be penned by “The Messenger” scribe Paul Viragh, working from a draft by Alessandro Camon.

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