French talent poised to break out

These pros are ready for a big year in 2008

Tomer Sisley (actor)

Already established as one of France’s most charismatic standup comedians, Sisley will be hoping to make a similar impact in his first major film role. In “Largo Winch,” Sisley plays the quick-witted head of a business empire out for revenge after his adopted father is murdered. The $35 million pic, which was adapted from a famous Belgian comicstrip and co-stars Kristin Scott Thomas, is out in France on Dec. 17.

Hafsia Herzi (actress)

In Abdel Kechiche’s poignant drama “The Secret of the Grain,” Herzi is a revelation as Rym, the young woman who attaches herself to an old man’s dream. The performance warranted Herzi the Marcello Mastroianni Award at last year’s Venice Mostra. The 21-year-old thesp is also slated to star opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo in an upcoming remake of Vittorio De Sica’s “Umberto D.”

Melanie Laurent (actress)

After receiving a European Shooting Star Award last year, Laurent is hardly resting on her laurels. The 25-year-old thesp co-stars alongside Juliette Binoche and Romain Duris in Cedric Klapisch’s eagerly awaited love letter to the City of Lights, “Paris,” out in France on Feb 20. Next up she plays the much put upon princess in Marc Esposito’s “Cinderella,” opposite Jean Reno and Sophie Marceau, due out later this year.

Samuel Benchetrit (writer-director)

Building on the promise of his debut feature “Janice & John,” Benchetrit has assembled a cast of talented thesps (Jean Rochefort, Edouard Baer and Sergi Lopez) and veteran Gallic rock gods (Arno and Alain Bashung) for his sophomore effort “I Always Wanted to Be a Gangster.” The result is an amusing, if slightly uneven, film told in four vignettes, written and directed by Benchetrit with considerable panache. Pic comes out in France on March 12.

Nicolas & Bruno (writers-directors-actors)

First names excepted, not an awful lot is known about this maverick, snapshot-shy duo. They first came to prominence writing and performing sketches on a series of innovative shows for Canal Plus. Recently they penned the screenplay for “99 Francs,” the film adaptation of Frederic Beigbeder’s scathing novel about the French advertising world. Their directorial debut “La Personne aux deux personnes,” a comedy starring Daniel Auteuil and Alain Chabat, is out in France on March 12.