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‘Mistress’ attracts two suitors

Fine Line, Strauss pact for classic Gallic novel

Who ever thought there would be such a premium on old mistresses?

Fine Line Features has teamed with vet French producer Jacques-Eric Strauss to develop a movie based on the classic Gallic novel “Une Vieille Maitresse,” or “An Old Mistress,” by Barbey d’Aurevilly.

Meanwhile, Jean Francois Lepetit’s Flach Film is planning to produce its own adaptation of the novel, to mark Catherine Breillat’s first English-language pic.

Fine Line is fast-tracking for production early next year. Budget is likely to be in the $15 million-$18 million range, depending on cast.

The Breillat version would start later, in summer 2003, after the French helmer’s next project, “Pornocratie” (see story, page 4).

The book, which is in the public domain, is a passionate love triangle, set in the 18th century, about a penniless but charming rogue who seduces a young heiress. But his past, in the shape of a former mistress whose husband once defeated him in a duel, comes back to haunt him. The project, described as being in the vein of “Dangerous Liaisons.”

The script for the Fine Line version is by Alexandra Crapazano, an American writer who was brought up in Paris.

“Mistress” was brought into Fine Line by prexy Mark Ordesky along with London-based senior veep Ileen Maisel, who will oversee the project.

Strauss, who founded the sales company President Films before selling it to France 2 Distribution, has production credits stretching back to “The Sicilian Clan” in 1969. He was most recently credited as associate producer on “Le Boulet.”

Breillat said, “It’s the story of a courtesan against society, about a woman who’s condemned because of her sensuality and desire.”

Madonna tops Breillat’s wish list of American actresses for the starring role.