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Fidelite filmmakers win rights to ‘Asterix’ franchise

Pic proves power of producing pair Missonnier and Delbosc

The fact that Fidelite Films’ Marc Missonnier and Olivier Delbosc snagged the adaptation rights for Europe’s biggest movie franchise, Asterix — beating former Asterix producer-director Thomas Langmann to the chase — exemplifies how powerful the producing pair has become.

The smashing success of nostalgic family comedy “Little Nicholas,” 2009’s highest grossing French film, propelled Missonnier and Delbosc under the spotlight.

“They both have a real artistic sensibility and at the same time, they’re very rigorous and business savvy,” explains Jean-Philippe Tirel, head of Wild Bunch distribution, which handled the French release of “Little Nicholas.”

Now Fidelite is adding indies with U.S. and international talent to its slate.

In the works are Paul Haggis’s The Next Three Days,” a remake of Diane Kruger-starrer “Pour elle” and then setting up Emir Kusturica’s “Pancho Villa,” a biopic of the Mexican revolutionary hero.

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The duo has been at the helm of Fidelite Films since 1993, producing about 40 films, ranging from Barmak Akram’s $1 million drama “Kabuli Kid” all the way to $28 million-motion-capture thriller “Prodigies,” set for an early 2011 release.

Missonnier and Delbosc, both alumni of the prestigious Paris film school La Femis, are part of a new breed of French producers, along with La Petite Reine’s Langmann and Onyx Films’ Aton Soumache and Dimitri Rassam who are concentrating on making auteur-driven films that have a mainstream appeal.

Notably, they’ve produced 14 films directed by Francois Ozon, including Charlotte Rampling-starrer “Swimming Pool;” and two films from Emir Kusturica — “Promise Me This” and soccer docu “Maradona.”

“We’ve always made a point of being different from everyone else,” says Missonnier. “We’ve chosen to stay independent, finance our own development and we don’t confine ourselves to a specific kind of film.”

Though “Villa” is a European production which will shoot in Spanish, it has a strong Hollywood flavor with Johnny Depp and Salma Hayek attached to topline.

With “Asterix” in Britain,” “Prodigies” and now “Pancho Villa” on its slate, Fidelite Films is one of the few Gallic companies able to handle $50 million-plus pics.

The shingle’s financial resources comes partly from their output deal with Giant telco Orange.

Fidelite Films also has first-look deals with Wild Bunch for international sales and Mars Distribution for French theatrical distribution.

Rolling off their feature films success, the outfit also recently ventured into TV production in an effort to raise the bar for homegrown dramas, which have been in decline over the past five years.

Their first TV project was “Pigalle, la nuit,” a sexy drama set in Paris’ red light district. Starring up-and-coming film thesp Simon Abkarian, the series pulled Canal Plus’ second-highest audience for a French original series.

Missonnier and Delbosc will next produce for pubcaster France 2 “Les Beaux Mecs,” a $12 million-crime series in eight episodes centering on a fugitive Mafia kingpin played again by Abkarian.

But Fidelite’s next big-screen challenge, says Missonnier, will be “Asterix in Britain,” fourth in a series of big-budget European tentpoles, which reunites much of the creative team from “Little Nicholas,” including scribe/helmer Laurent Tirard.

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