EuropaCorp kicks up soccer pic

Producers Besson, Le Pogam fans of sport

Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp — whose “Fanfan la tulipe” opens the festival tonight — is developing a $15 million pic about soccer to mark the 100th anniversary of the FIFA Intl. Football Federation next year.

Besson already has penned the script, which is being translated into English before the one-hour film goes into production this summer.

EuropaCorp plans to deliver it in time for the FIFA’s anniversary celebrations next May. The sports org spearheads the World Cup soccer tournament.

It is the first time that the company, run jointly by Besson and partner Pierre Ange Le Pogam, has produced a film specially to order.

Le Pogam tells Variety, “We are both mad about football (soccer) and jumped at the chance to do this.”

The script, he says, “recounts the history of football (soccer) from its origins in China 2,000 years ago to the present day, but told in a completely off-the-wall, humorous way.”

The 3-year-old EuropaCorp is a powerful presence at Cannes this year: Aside from the Gerard Krawczyk-helmed “Fanfan,” the company’s Bertrand Blier pic “Les cotelettes” is in competition.

The latter film, based on a successful stage play by the helmer, is the big surprise of the French competition lineup, marking Blier’s comeback after a period in the wilderness.

EuropaCorp also has one of the biggest market lineups among Gallic companies, led by the $43 million English-language “Danny the Dog,” starring Morgan Freeman and Jet Li.

It also buys pics for French distribution; recent acquisitions include “The Eye,” “Bangkok Dangerous,” “Together” and “The Human Stain.”

“Considering we only started 2½ years ago, I think we’ve come a long way,” boasts Le Pogam.

In Paris, EuropaCorp’s new chateau-like offices, a stone’s throw from the Champs Elysees, are the talk of the film biz. But Besson and Le Pogam have their sights on an even more ambitious facility, a veritable Hollywood style lot complete with its own studios in St. Denis, a suburb north of Paris.

“We’d like everyone to be on site,” says Le Pogam. “We invariably have two or three films overlapping at any given time but, for instance, we don’t have the room to provide office space for the 50-80 people working full time on a film in preparation.”

EuropaCorp owes its success to a great run of commercial, youth-oriented pics made on tightly controlled budgets, led by the mega-earning smash franchise “Taxi.”

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