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Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano’s ‘The Specials’ Already a Gaumont Sales Hit (EXCLUSIVE)

Following the widely successful “C’est La Vie,” Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s (“The Intouchables”) passion project “The Specials” (“Hors normes”) starring Vincent Cassel and Reda Kateb, has already lured major buyers in key territories.

Gaumont, which delivered the largest number of French B.O. hits overseas in 2018, has pre-sold “The Specials” to Germany, Austria (Prokino), Greece (Seven), Italy (Videa), Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands (Cineart), Portugal (Lusomundo), Spain (A Contracorriente), Switzerland (Ascot Elite), Israel (Lev), Canada, (MK2 Mile), Scandinavia (Scanbox), China (E Star), Taiwan (Moviecloud), Abania, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro (MCF Megacom) Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania (Mauris Films) and Poland (Kino Swiat).

“The Specials” is an uplifting drama about the true story of Stephane Benhamou and Daoud Tatou, two friends from different religious faiths who, 20 years ago, created a pair of non-profit organizations for children with severe autism.

Toledano and Nakache are best-known for directing “The Intouchables,” which scored $450 million worldwide. Their last film, “C’est la vie,” is the second-highest grossing French film worldwide this year so far.

“The Specials” is being produced by Toledano and Nakache’s regular partners at Paris-based production banner Quad. Gaumont is co-producing with Toledano and Nakache’s company Ten Films. Gaumont is also handling international sales and will release the movie in France on Oct. 23.

Toledano and Nakache received the French Cinema Award at a reception hosted at France’s culture minister and organized by UniFrance.

Speaking to Variety, Toledano said the film was a long-gestated project that came up years ago, even before they made the Golden Globe nominated “The Intouchables,” a huge B.O. hit in France and abroad. “‘The success of ‘The Intouchables’ gave us a tremendeous freedom to make the movies we want to make – for instance a movie about an illegal immigrant with Omar Sy (“Samba”)!”

As for the genesis of “The Specials,” it all started after Toledano and Nakache spent time at the non-profit organizations for children with severe autism where the popular French comedian Gad Elmaleh was doing lot of shows.

“It was magical to see how people from different communities who would have probably never have talked to each other in regular times would come together and bond within the walls of the organizations when they are in a vulnerable state,” said Toledano. “Because autism forces those who suffer from it to come out of their world and really talk to each other.”

The filmmaker said the French title of the film, “Hors normes,” refers to the fact that the organizations sometimes transgressed protocols to help kids and got in trouble for it. “It’s often necessary to transgress rules to better redefine them,” said Toledano.

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