Pathé, a driving force behind France’s biggest movies slated for 2022 including “Asterix & Obelix, the Middle Kingdom” and “The Three Musketeers,” is developing an untitled two-part film about Charles de Gaulle, the legendary French army officer who led the French resistance against Nazi Germany during World War II and eventually became president of France.
The film will be directed by Antonin Baudry, who made his feature debut with “The Wolf’s Call,” toplining “Lupin” star Omar Sy. Baudry is currently writing the screenplay, which is based on Julian Jackson’s “A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle.” Production is expected to start in 2023.
The two movies will follow De Gaulle’s life and political engagement between 1940 and 1945, and charts his evolution into a political career.
“We’re interested by this period because that’s when De Gaulle became the De Gaulle we know, a national hero, and we will explore his successes, setbacks, turmoils, his relationship with [U.K. prime minister Winston] Churchill, and his actions to reconquer France through French colonies during those years,” said Pathé Films CEO Ardavan Safaee.
In spite of the pandemic, Pathe has never been busier and more ambitious. “Within the last two years we have assembled the biggest lineup of films we’ve ever had,” noted Safaee.
The company’s roster includes Martin Bourboulon’s “Eiffel” with Romain Duris and Emma Mackey slated for August 2021, and Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “Notre Dame on Fire,” scheduled for April 2022. It’s also shooting this year a pair of big-budget films: “Asterix & Obelix, The Middle Kingdom,” Guillaume Canet’s $70 million adventure comedy with Gilles Lellouche, Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel and Canet; and “The Three Musketeers,” a €60 million ($73 million) two-part adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic French masterpiece that will star François Civil, Eva Green and Cassel.
“We’re coming out of a difficult period during which many people were skeptical or anxious about the future of theatrical, but at Pathe we never had doubt because cinema has experienced crisis over the years and has also managed to reinvent itself and thrive in the face of adversity,” said Safaee. One of France’s oldest and most venerable French film studios, Pathé also owns the country’s biggest cinema chain.
Safaee said the company’s current slate represents a cumulated investment €200 million ($237 million). Considering France’s average budget is well under $10 million, the price tags of pics like “Asterix & Obelix, The Middle Kingdom” and “The Three Musketeers” are huge. Pathé Films has financed between 25% and 40% of these movies’ budgets and holds French distribution and international sales rights to them.
“It’s a big investment that we’re able to handle thanks to strong pre-sales, notably because these are all films which have an international appeal,” Safaee said, and added: “‘Notre Dame on Fire,’ ‘Asterix & Obelix, the Middle Kingdom’ and ‘The Three Musketeers’ are all franchises that are not only French IPs but also international ones.”
“Astérix & Obelix” is currently shooting on an studio set near Paris and is being produced by Alain Attal at Tresor Films and Yohan Baiada at Les Enfants Terribles. The movie has pre-sold to Notorious for Italy and Spain, and Leonine for Germany. It was previously acquired by AQS, Melusa, BTV, Kinoswiat, Blitz, Vertigo for Eastern European territories, and Unicorn for Russia. Netflix has also acquired a string of territories.
“The scale of the film, on top of its original and funny script have boosted the appeal of this IP,” said Safaee.
“The Three Musketeers,” meanwhile, which is produced by Dimitri Rassam at Mediawan-owned Chapter 2, has pre-sold to Notorious in Italy, Deaplaneta in Spain and Constantin in Germany.
Pathé Films has also scored a raft of sales on the family-friendly adventure film “King” following a presentation of the promo reel during the pre-Cannes virtual market. The film got picked up in key territories such as Spain (Vertigo), Italy (Eagle), Russia (Exponenta), Poland (M2), Latin America (BF), Israel (Redcape) and the Baltics (Acme).
Pathe is attending Cannes with Paul Verhoeven’s “Benedetta,” which will be released in the U.S. by IFC. The company is also getting ready to start shooting Nicolas Bedos’ “Mascarade,” a French Riviera-set drama-comedy with Isabelle Adjani, Pierre Niney and Francois Cluzet. It will mark the helmer’s follow-up to “La Belle Epoque” which had world premiered at Cannes. The company’s roster also includes Pedro Almódovar’s “Madre Paralelas,” which recently wrapped shooting.