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Beineix eyes ‘Deal’ start without U.S. distributor

UGC takes Gallic rights

CANNES — The status of Jean-Jacques Beineix’s “Deal of the Millennium,” his first theatrical pic since 1992 and his debut English-lingo project, appears to be in doubt again.

Beineix has said that he intends to start lensing the $40 million film in August without a U.S. distribution deal in place.

But Wednesday the director admitted to Daily Variety “I might start a little later.”

French major UGC has taken Gallic rights with sales division UGC Intl. widely believed to be investing against world rights. UGC Intl. has never officially confirmed its involvement.

Word in Paris is that UGC Intl. has dropped out, apparently over casting differences, although those who have read the script say it is strong.

The director, who is best known for “Diva” and “Betty Blue,” has lined up hot Gallic thesp Jean Reno to star as an experienced vampire who is called upon by two younger blood-suckers to explain how to do what vampires do. Jason Flemyng (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”) is being approached to take one of young vampire roles, with his female counterpart still to be cast.

UGC Intl. reps have confirmed they “are not in the film at this moment, but that could change.”

“Deal of the Millennium” has been in the works for years. The French director acquired the book rights off Paramount more than a decade ago and Studio Canal Plus has invested just under $1 million in development funding.

This time last year, Studio Canal Plus was set to back the pic, then budgeted at $60 million; that deal fell apart, largely because the company has a policy of not investing in big-budget movies without having a U.S. distribution deal in place to share the financial risk.

Beineix hasn’t lensed since his Yves Montand starrer “IP5” in 1992.