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French rogue in vogue for bigscreen bio

'Hustler' tome tells story of Gallic cheat, impersonator

PARIS — The real-life Hollywood exploits of notorious con artist Christophe Rocancourt will be brought to the bigscreen in a $25 million English-lingo pic produced by Thomas Langmann.

The Gallic filmmaker, son of Claude Berri, beat a U.S. bidder for the rights to Rocancourt’s autobiography “The French Hustler” last week. Langmann would not confirm how much he paid, but it is thought to be around $1 million.

Deal was struck following a visit to Rocancourt in a Canadian jail, where he is awaiting extradition to the U.S.

The son of a prostitute and alcoholic, Rocancourt lied and cheated his way from poverty to the high-life among Hollywood’s glitterati in the 1990s, becoming the most wanted Frenchman in the U.S.

Over a 10-year period, he perpetrated a series of hoaxes in which he posed as a Rockefeller, the son of Dino De Laurentiis and a European blue-blood, fooling everyone and swindling money before finally being caught by police in Canada last year.

Those who fell for his act are said to have included Mickey Rourke, Jean-Claude Van Damme, the Jacksons and a bevy of top businessmen and high-flying financiers.

“Almost everyone’s a liar in Hollywood so Rocancourt was just as believable as the next guy. It’s just a great story,” Langmann told Daily Variety.

Langmann will develop the project himself, he said, “so that I can control who will star and who will direct.”

Langmann’s company La Petite Reine has just finished shooting big-budget English-lingo actioner “Blueberry,” starring Vincent Cassel.

Deal with Rocancourt was brokered by Paris-based literary agent Susanna Lea, who secured $2 million from DreamWorks for first-time author Marc Levy’s “If Only It Were True.”

Lea insisted Langmann and Rocancourt meet face to face, even though it meant a trans-Atlantic flight for an encounter that took place through the plate glass of a penitentiary window.

“When it is a question of filming someone’s autobiography, it’s important that both sides know whom they are dealing with,” Lea said.

The agent is also handling foreign publishing rights to the book, which went straight on to the French bestseller list when it came out two weeks ago. It is published in France by Editions Michel Laffont.

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