After delivering two of the highest-grossing French films of last year, Alain Attal’s Paris-based production company Tresor Films (“Sink or Swim,” “Little White Lies 2”) is kicking off 2020 with its most ambitious project yet, Guillaume Canet’s “Asterix & Obelix: The Silk Road.”
Co-produced and financed by Jerome Seydoux’s Pathé, “Asterix & Obelix” is budgeted at $72.4 million, an exceptionally high budget by French standards. Attal, who is also producing the film with the banner Les Enfants Terribles, said the price tag was on a par with previous instalments of “Asterix,” and reflected the scope of the film and commercial potential of the comicbook franchise.
“It’s a costume film set 2,000 years ago, so we’ll be building a village, filming gigantic battles and that will require plenty of extras, and we’ll also need a lot of visual effects and of course a high-profile cast with some cameos,” said Attal. The most successful opus, “Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra,” grossed more than $108 million worldwide in 2002.
Set in China, during the year 50 B.C., “Asterix & Obelix: The Silk Road” is based on an original story inspired by the franchise’s characters, and written by Philippe Mechelen, Julien Hervé and Canet, who will also star in the film alongside another well-known French actor, Gilles Lellouche. The movie will revolve around the only daughter of the Chinese Emperor Han Xuandi, who escapes from the grips of a rogue prince and runs off to Gaul, seeking help from two valiant warriors, Asterix and Obelix, who have gained superpowers thanks to a magic potion.
“Asterix & Obelix: The Silk Road” will be co-produced with China. Attal said Pathé was in negotiations with a major Chinese distribution/co-production partner, who will cover a big chunk of the budget. Pathé is handling international sales and will be distributing the film, with principal photography expected to start this spring or summer.
Attal said he and Canet, as well as his other partners on the film, have made several trips to China, including an official trip with France President Emmanuel Macron, in order to present the project to Chinese authorities and be allowed to shoot in China, co-produce the film with a Chinese company, and release it widely there.
The French producer said Tresor, which is best known for modern French dramas and comedies exploring societal issues and relationships such as Lellouche’s “Sink or Swim” and Canet’s “Little White Lies,” said his company was increasingly looking to get out of its comfort zone and venture along unbeaten paths. He cited the $20 million submarine thriller “The Wolf’s Call” by Antonin Baudry, and Regis Roinsard’s whodunnit hacking-themed thriller “The Translators,” which will be the first film released in France by Tresor Films on Jan. 29.
Surrounded by a tight team of 15 executives, Attal said he believed the key to attracting audiences to theaters nowadays was “the quality of script and a singular story or topic,” more than the inclusion of stars. “There is so much competition out there that the only way to make people care is to awe or inspire them,” said Attal, citing the Oscar-nominated “Les Miserables” and “Parasite.”
This year, besides “Asterix & Obelix: The Silk Road,” Tresor is producing another fantasy-filled film, “How I Became a Superhero,” a $13.6 million movie directed by Douglas Attal and headlined by a strong French cast, including Pio Marmai, Leila Bekhti, Benoit Poelvoorde, Vimala Pons and Swann Arlaud. The film will be released by Warner Bros. France in October, and is being sold by Kinology. It’s set in a parallel world where superheroes are living alongside ordinary mortals. The film follows two lieutenants who enlist the help of a pair of superheroes to dismantle a drugs ring in Paris.
In line with his long-term collaborations with actors-turned-helmers, such as Canet and Lellouche, Attal is also working on the feature debuts of two well-known French actors, Laurent Lafitte with “The Origin of the World,” and Pierre Niney with “No Kidding,” a dystopian film, which Niney is now writing with Igor Gotesman. The film is set in the future, in a world where laughing is forbidden. Attal said the tone of “No Kidding” will be in the vein of “The Truman Show.” “It will be a very ambitious, singular film, not a comedy,” said Attal.
Now in post-production, “The Origins of the World” is based on Sebastien Thiery’s play and is headlined by Karin Viard, Nicole Garcia, Vincent Macaigne and Lafitte. The movie centers on Jean-Louis, a 40 year-old man, who realizes one day that his heart isn’t beating anymore, and frantically searches for the reason behind his condition. Studiocanal is co-producing and will be distributing the movie in France.
Tresor is also financing Alix Delaporte’s (“Angele & Tony”) next movie “Girl With a Movie Camera,” Patrick Mille’s “Repose-toi sur moi,” and Thomas Bidegain’s “Suddenly,” an ambitious English-language drama penned by Bidegain (“The Sisters Brothers”) and Noé Debré (“Dheepan”), based on the novel “Soudain, Seuls” by Isabelle Autissier, as well as Eric Lartigau’s new project.
Attal said he was also developing the next films of Lellouche, as well as Stéphanie Di Giusto (“The Dancer”) and Jeanne Herry (“In Safe Hands”).