Global backers help ‘Christmas’ delivery

Film to be shot in French, German and English

Gallic producer Christophe Rossignon and UGC, the film’s French distributor, unveiled details of the upcoming $20 million World War I tale ‘Merry Christmas” Thursday in the presence of stars Gary Lewis, Daniel Bruhl, Thomas Kretschmann, Guillaume Canet, Dany Boon,Diane Kruger and helmer Christian Carion.

Former StudioCanal sales topper Daniel Marquet helped mount financing for the pic, which has taken a year to put together and features an array of international partners in addition to French backers Canal Plus, TF1 and the Nord Pas de Calais region.

Co-producers are Senator in Germany, Bertrand Faivre’s the Bureau in the U.K., Artemis in Belgium and Media Pro in Romania. Japan’s Nippon Herald has picked up the film and negotiations are advanced on pre-sales to Italy and Spain. Another partner is Virgin Music, which will release the soundtrack.

Rossignon said, “It has taken a long time to do it, but it shows that it is still possible to raise a lot of money for a serious independent film in Europe.”

A 13-week shoot in France, Scotland, Romania and Germany will begin August. Originally written in French by Carion, the film will be shot in a mixture of French, German and English. Plan is to release the pic day-and-date in December 2005.

Carion said he has wanted to make the pic, his sophomore effort after “The Girl From Paris,” since reading a newspaper story 10 years ago about the true story of enemy soldiers who laid down their arms to celebrate Christmas together.

“I am a humanist and it moved me very much that a thing like that could have happened,” Carion said, “but at the time I hadn’t even made a short film, and this was a costly project, so I put the cutting in a drawer.”

Gary Lewis (“Billy Elliot”) said, “I was very interested in this script immediately. It is very pertinent because of what is happening in the world and it becomes more pertinent with each day that passes.”

Rossignon’s other projects include “Azur et Asma,” a E8.5 million ($10 million) animated film about East and West by Michel Ocelot, the director of “Kirikou and the Sorceress.” Pic will shoot in 2005, with Diaphana set to distribute in France.