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CANNES: Michel Hazanavicius to Direct ‘Will’ Starring Zach Galifianakis (EXCLUSIVE)

Michel Hazanavicius, the Oscar-winning helmer of “The Artist” who has “The Search” competing at Cannes, will next direct “Will,” Paramount’s comedy produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Zach Galifianakis is attached to topline the project, which was first unveiled nearly two years ago.

In an exclusive interview with Variety, Hazanavicius said he recently met with the project’s writer Demetri Martin (“Late Night With Conan O’Brien”) to read the latest version of the script. “I think the script looks great.” Hazanavicius said he and “The Hangover” star were looking forward to working together on the movie. “He’s extremely funny, and can convey great sincerity and humanity even when he’s delivering big gags,” said Hazanavicius, who added that Paul Rudd is in talks to star as Will. Galifianakis will play Will’s rebellious guardian angel.

“‘Will’ has been in the starting blocks for a while because I (started) ‘The Search.’ After making ‘The Artist’ I received a lot of proposals but figured it was the right timing for me to direct ‘The Search’ because we were able to finance it without too much difficulty and it’s a film that was important for me to make,” Hazanavicius said, adding that he expected the production to either start at the end of the year or early 2015.

Hazanavicus said he will then likely move on to direct “In the Garden of Beasts,” the Universal Pictures/Tom Hanks’ Playtone project based on Erik Larson’s nonfiction book “In the Garden of Beasts.”

Scribe Eric Roth is expected to pen a treatment of the adaptation, according to various sources.

Natalie Portman is in talks to star as Hanks’ daughter. Hanks is producing with Gary Goetzman and Peter Cramer at Playtone.
“The Search,” a drama set in war-torn Chechnya with Berenice Bejo and Annette Bening, will premiere in competition May 21. A remake of Fred Zinnemann’s Oscar-winning 1948 film of the same title, Hazanavicius’ pic centers around the bond between an NGO worker and a young boy.

Hazanavicius said he had been wanting to make a film about the Chechen war for a long time and was looking for the right vehicle, which he found with Zinnemann’s movie. Hazanavicius had gone through a similar process with “The Artist,” winner of five Oscars, among dozen of international awards. The helmer had the idea of making a silent film in back and white before coming up with the story of fading American star George Valentin, a role that earned Jean Dujardin the best actor prize in Cannes in 2011.

Wild Bunch handles international sales on “The Search.” Worldview Entertainment has North American rights.

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