Asterix to meet Cleo as French prep sequel

Clavier, Depardieu return as popular duo, Berri to produce

Looking to kick box office in the asp, French producer Claude Berri is preparing “Asterix et Cleopatre” — a follow-up to 1999’s most successful film in France, “Asterix et Obelix contre Cesar,” which raked in $52 million in Gaul.

Christian Clavier and Gerard Depardieu will reprise their roles as Asterix and Obelix; Cleopatra has yet to be cast. The “Asterix” films are based on the Rene Goscinny/Albert Uderzo comic books.

Berri’s Paris-based Renn Prods., part of the Pathe group, will finance the pic with participation likely from other Euro backers. “Asterix et Obelix” was, at $48 million, the most expensive French-lingo film ever made, though it was a co-production involving German and Italian partners. Although no budget is fixed, “Asterix et Cleopatre” is certain to have a higher pricetag than its predecessor.

Lensing is set to begin in September in France, Malta and Morocco with Alain Chabat at the helm.

Chabat, who also penned the script, is best known for his hyphenate turn as a dog trapped inside a man’s body in “Didier,” a film he also wrote and directed.

Pathe will distribute “Asterix et Cleopatre” in France, but Pathe Intl., the group’s new sales arm, may not take world rights. Although it was decreed that the startup would handle sales outside France on all pics produced by companies falling under the Pathe umbrella when the company was created last year, “Asterix et Cleopatre” is tipped to land at longtime collaborator President, which took on worldwide sales for the first “Asterix” pic.

Jacques-Eric Strauss, President’s prexy, sold the first “Asterix” film, which eventually took in about $45 million overseas, making it Gaul’s most successful cinematic export of 1999. Pre-sales on “Asterix et Cleopatre” should commence at Cannes.