‘Fantomas’ spies bigscreen makeover

La Petite Reineis fast-tracks detective story

Thomas Langmann’s La Petite Reine (“Asterix at the Olympic Games,” “Public Enemy Number One”) is fast-tracking “Fantomas,” a bigscreen makeover of the French detective novels. Budget looks set for E45 million-E50 million ($60 million-$70 million).

“Fantomas” is sold by La Petite Reine and Gregoire Melin’s Kinology. Christophe Gans (“Silent Hill,” “Brotherhood of the Wolf”) is writing the screenplay with David Martinez from an original story by Langmann. Gans also will direct.

“Fantomas” forms part of a hoard of projects at La Petite Reine that sees one of Europe’s most ambitious production houses moving in two directions, Langmann said. “We will increasingly work with young gifted directors we admire to establish long-standing relationships, and we’re also developing a slate of feel-good comedies for tough times,” Langmann said.

Directors set to work with La Petite Reine include “Enemy” helmer Jean-Francois Richet, Alexandre Aja and Laila Marrakchi (“Marock”).

Written by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre, and first published in 1911, the 43 “Fantomas” novels follow Fantomas, an ingenious but amoral master of disguise and sadistic killer. The literary franchise is also a Gallic national crime fiction treasure, having yielded multiple big- and smallscreen and comic-book adaptations.

Influenced by “The Dark Knight,” Langmann said, Gans’ adaptation sees Fantomas facing off with a villain of equal or even more dastardly dimensions. Pic will shoot in French and English, and begin casting shortly.

Shooting late year, or early 2010, “Fantomas” means Langmann and Gans will push back into 2010 “The Swedish Cavalier,” to which Vincent Cassel is attached in the lead role.

After “Marock” made her a leading femme light of Morocco’s new wave of directors, Marrakchi’s second film will turn on the family of Morocco’s General Mohamed Oufkir, who supposedly launched a coup against the regime of Hassan II in 1972. The Arabic- and English-language film will be co-produced with Aja.

Langmann said they are considering “two-or-three different projects,” to shoot 2010 for Richet. Richet also has a project set up with “The Prophet” producer Pascal Caucheteux.

Reine’s comedy lineup kicks off with Pascal Bourdiaux’s banker-turns-pimp farce “Le Mac,” toplining Jose Garcia, which went before the cameras Monday.

La Petite Reine is also prepping a Gallic makeover of Santiago Segura’s Spanish megahit “Torrente,” written by Vincent Lambert and Langmann, for 2010; and “Stars des annees ’80s,” written by Olivier Dazat (“Podium”). Langmann’s Paris-based production house has inked with “Vilaine” producers, Paris Prods.’ Fabrice Goldstein and Antoine Reinto co-produce two sequels, “Super Vilaine,” and “Super Mega-Vilaine.”

La Petite Reine will also oversee Gallic distribution on “Tresor,” the last film by Claude Berri, Langmann’s father.