Gaumont has come on board “The Emperor of Paris,” a crime thriller about Francois Vidocq, a real-life ex-convict who became a police detective during Napoleon’s reign. The project – which started shooting Tuesday – re-teams Jean-Francois Richet, the director of the “Mesrine” gangster films, with French star Vincent Cassel (“Black Swan”).
Cassel (pictured), who earned critical acclaim for his performance as Jacques Mesrine in Richet’s “Killer Instinct” and “Public Enemy #1,” will play Vidocq. He will star opposite Olga Kurylenko (“The Death of Stalin”), August Dhiel (“Inglourious Basterds”), Freya Mavor (“Skins”), Denis Menochet (“Custody”) and James Thierée (“Chocolat”), among others.
A French adventurer who became a gangster and then the boss of Paris police, Vidocq led a tumultuous life that has inspired authors such as Victor Hugo and Edgar Allan Poe. In “The Emperor of Paris,” set during the height of Napoleon’s reign, Vidocq lies low as a modest cloth merchant after a dazzling escape from a high-security prison. When his criminal past catches up with him, Vidocq makes a pact with local police to clean the streets of Paris of thieves and murderers.
“The Emperor of Paris” is being produced by Eric and Nicolas Altmayer’s Mandarin Production, whose credits include Bertrand Bonello’s “Saint Laurent” and Francois Ozon’s “Amant Double.”
The Altmayer brothers are aiming to produce a big-scale, entertaining film that will mix action and adventure against the backdrop of Paris’ 19th-century streets. Three large Parisian neighborhoods have been entirely re-created as they were in the 19th century. The movie’s key crew includes Pierre-Yves Gayraud, the costume designer of “Albert Nobbs” and “The Bourne Identity,” as well as Emile Ghigo and Olivier Schneider, the production designer and fight choreographer, respectively, of the “Mesrine” films.
Budgeted at 21.5 million euros ($25.3 million), “The Emperor of Paris” is likely to be one of France’s most ambitious local films in 2018. Gaumont is co-producing, handling international sales and will distribute the film in France in December of next year.
Richet most recently directed Mel Gibson in “Blood Father,” a pulp action thriller which world-premiered out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016.
The “Mesrine” films were a critical and commercial hit in France. The movies won three Cesars (France’s equivalent of the Oscars) out of 10 nominations in 2009. “Killer Instinct” and “Public Enemy #1” also ranked among the highest-grossing French films of 2008, with earnings of $18 million and $12 million, respectively, in France.