French sales agency Playtime has come on board director Roman Polanski’s just-wrapped “An Officer and a Spy,” an historical espionage thriller based on Robert Harris’s novel and headlined by Oscar-winning actor Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”) and Mathieu Amalric (“At Eternity’s Gate”).
Re-teaming Harris (“The Ghost Writer”) and Polanski, the movie tells the true story of counter-espionage officer Georges Picquart, who defied orders and embarked on a compromising mission to clear the name of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a promising French-Jewish officer who was unfairly accused of spying for Germany and imprisoned on Devil’s Island in the late 1890s. Drawn into a dangerous labyrinth of deceit and corruption, Picquart eventually succeeded in getting Dreyfus exonerated of any wrongdoing years later. The Dreyfus Affair has long been an obsession for the Oscar-winning director, who has tried to tell the story at various points in his career.
Produced by Alain Goldman (“La Vie en Rose”) at Legende Films, in co-production with Casanova Multimedia and Rai Cinema, the film also stars Emmanuelle Seigner (“At Eternity’s Gate”) and Louis Garrel (“Redoutable”).
“Films with the breadth and scope of ‘An Officer and a Spy’ are few and far between in today’s market,” said Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, co-founder of Playtime. He added that the company will kick off sales at Cannes and will be hosting a private event with Goldman and Dujardin to introduce the movie’s first footage to buyers on May 18. The international sales deal was brokered by Goldman and François Yon and Sébastien Beffa for Playtime.
“An Officer and A Spy” was an “extraordinary human drama, not only because it was based on historical events but because it resonated in today’s world,” Goldman said. “[Polanski] has been wanting to tell this story for many years and it may very well be his most personal and powerful film since ‘The Pianist.’”
Polanski has directed more than 20 features, including “The Ghost Writer,” “Chinatown,” Rosemary’s Baby,” and “The Pianist,” which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and three Oscars. Polanski pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor in 1977 and has been a fugitive of U.S. justice, living primarily in France. U.S. distributors have been steering clear of Polanski since the advent of the Me Too movement because they believe his past conviction for raping an underage girl has made him toxic in the States. However his projects continue to find an audience and financial support in Europe. Sony Pictures Classics bought U.S. rights to his 2017 film “Based on a True Story,” but has yet to release the picture.
Playtime’s involvement in “An Officer and a Spy” as international sales agent means that the film could now find an audience in territories outside the U.S.
“An Officer and a Spy” just wrapped shooting and will be released in France by Gaumont, which is co-producing. With a budget of €25.5 million ($29 million), “An Officer and a Spy” is one of the most high-profile French movies slated for this year.