‘Code’ name’s added

French thesp painted into Col's 'Da Vinci'

Audrey Tautou will star opposite Tom Hanks in “The Da Vinci Code,” the Columbia Pictures adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel. Director Ron Howard will begin production of the film in June, with Brian Grazer and John Calley producing.

The French star of “Amelie” and “A Very Long Engagement” will play cryptographer Sophie Neveu, who teams with Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks) to discover why her grandfather was brutally murdered on the floor of the Louvre. The pair finds clues hidden in Da Vinci’s paintings that show the victim was part of a covert society.

Grazer said the pic is staying very close to the book; the producers just got permission to shoot at the Louvre. Brown’s novel has been atop the bestseller lists for the better part of two years.

“You get so much information out of Audrey’s face and eyes that it’s hardly surprising she’s become one of the more esteemed actresses in France,” Grazer said.

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Tautou’s Paris publicist confirmed to Daily Variety Sunday that contracts were being drawn up for Tautou to play the part.

The 26-year-old actress has already made 17 films, including a couple of English-lingo pics, Stephen Frears’ “Dirty Pretty Things” and Amos Kollek’s “Nowhere to Go but Up.”

Grazer said he and Calley hope “Da Vinci Code” spawns a franchise. Studio’s original deal gives them first shot at “Angels and Demons,” an earlier Langdon mystery that, in the wake of the “Da Vinci Code” phenomenon, has also become a huge bestseller. Grazer said they are going one movie at a time, however.