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Canal Plus speaks English

Cipango to develop fantasy, mystery and comicbook spinoff series

After scoring top ratings with two French crime dramas, “Braquo” and “Pigalle,” Canal Plus is switching gears and going for English-language epic, fantasy and period series.

On the eve of Monday’s opening of the Mip TV mart in Cannes, the Gallic powerhouse announced three projects in development with Paris-based outfit Cipango Films.

The paybox’s slate includes a 13-episode series adapted from the Belgian comicbook “XIII.” Skein is a spinoff of the two-part series starring Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff. Series got a poor reception when it aired in February 2008 on NBC, but pulled record ratings on Canal Plus that October.

The series will be directed by Duane Clark and penned by Gil Grant. Lensing will start this fall.

Canal Plus and Cipango Films are also developing “La Patrouille perdue,” (The Lost Patrol) a WWI-set fantasy/war drama. To be shot in English, the skein will follow a French patrol faced with supernatural events.

Fabrice De La Patelliere, director of Canal Plus’ fiction department, said producers are in talks with prominent British or American scribes.

The third project, “Le Vol des cigognes” (Flight of the Storks), is a two-part series based on Jean-Christophe Grange’s crime novel. The mini centers on a young French academic who’s embroiled in a series of murders while tracing the flight of storks around the world. Grange’s working on an adaptation. A British or American screenwriter will be tapped to make a English-language version.

Canal Plus is also developing “Versailles,” an opulent costume skein set up at Capa Drama, producer of “Braquo.”

Drama centers on Louis XIV, from his youth to his rise to power. De La Patelliere said the production team decided to shoot the series in English after realizing that the estimated budget was too large to finance exclusively out of France.

“This chapter of French history is fascinating and the project has already sparked a lot of interest from overseas producers and talents,” De La Patelliere said. “We’re in negotiation with two high-profile English-speaking writers to come on board.”

The pay TV group moved into high-profile international co-productions last year with “The Borgias,” a e30 million ($40.1 million) series penned by “The Sopranos'” scribe Tom Fontana and exec produced by Starz CEO Chris Albrecht.

De La Patelliere said the producers are looking for an European partner to complete financing.

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