Tahar Rahim, who earned BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for his starring roles in “A Prophet” and “The Mauritanian,” is set to play Charles Aznavour, the iconic French-Armenian singer, songwriter and actor who sold more than 180 million records around the world.

Titled “Monsieur Aznavour,” the biopic will be directed by singer-turned-filmmakers Mehdi Idir and Grand Corps Malade (“Patients”), and produced by Jean-Rachid Kallouche’s Kallouche Cinema and Mandarin & Compagnie, the banner behind Francois Ozon’s and Anne Fontaine’s films.

Kallouche, who teamed with Eric and Nicolas Altmayer at Mandarin on Grand Corps Malade and Idir’s previous films, is married to Katia Aznavour, the daughter of the late artist. Filming will kick off in the summer for an estimated delivery in 2024, to mark Aznavour’s centenary.

The movie will chart Aznavour’s rise to stardom in the 1950s and his friendships with many artists, including Edith Piaf, who took him with her on a tour of France and the U.S. Kallouche said Aznavour gave him his blessing to produce his biopic before passing in 2018. “He was impressed with ‘Patients,’ and when I told him I wanted to make a film about his life one day, he said ‘yes’ right away,” Kallouche told Variety, adding that it was Aznavour’s idea that his biopic should focus on the first part of his life, “from zero to fame,’ as the producer puts it.

Aznavour, whose parents came to France after fleeing the genocide in Armenia, started his career acting at the age of 9. But he gained recognition as a singer and songwriter much later, when he was in the 30s. He eventually became a global star whose songs have been covered by other artists, including Ray Charles with “For Mama,” Bob Dylan with “The Times We’ve Known,” Liza Minnelli with “What Makes a Man a Man,” as well as Elvis Costello with “She,” for the soundtrack of the Julia Roberts film “Notting Hill.” Aznavour sang duets with many singers, including Sinatra on “You Make Me Feel So Young.” Sometimes referred to as the “French Frank Sinatra,” Aznavour also appeared in more than 60 films. CNN named him Entertainer of the Century in 1998, and he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017.

Kallouche said Rahim was the ideal actor to play the part of Aznavour, as they share many similarities, “the same sensibility, drive and passion for their work, as well as a malicious gaze.” They’ve also had to overcome adversity to achieve success. Rahim, who was born in France from immigrant parents like Aznavous, grew up in a large household in Northern France, broke through at the age of 28 with his performance in “A Prophet,” which won a prize at Cannes, an Oscar nomination and earned him a Cesar Award.

Rahim, who is one of France’s rare actors able to transform himself for roles, went on to become an international star with leading parts in “The Mauritanian” which earned a Golden Globe and BAFTA nomination, as well as “The Serpent,” which was also nominated for a Golden Globe. Rahim, whose career in the U.S. is taking off in a big way, recently wrapped the shoot of Sony’s superhero film “Madame Web” and will next be seen in “Extrapolations,” the series anthology created by Scott Z. Burns for Apple TV+ whose trailer is dropping today, as well as Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” which will come out in June. Like Aznavour, Rahim also leads a rich family life and shares three children with his wife, Leila Behkti, also an actor.

Grand Corps Malade and Idir’s previous two films “Patients” and “La Vie Scolaire” were B.O. hits in France and sold to major markets. Kallouche said the directors duo have been working tirelessly on the script for a year and a half.

Copyright: Julien Vallon