Van Damme signs to Asterix

9 June, 2005

PARIS -- After much negotiating, Gallic producer Thomas Langmann has received the greenlightgreenlight to make "Asterix at the Olympic Games," a third episode in France's mega-hit movie franchise. Pic will be co-developed with Pathe, which financed the previous two films, and helmed by Frederic Forestier.

Gerard Depardieu will reprise his role as Obelix, but Langmann is looking for a new Asterix, previously played by Christian Clavier. Langmann said cast would include Alain Delon, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Belgian actor Benoit Poelvoorde. Van Damme will don a toga to play Roman athlete Cornedurus.

Langman's father, Claude Berri, produced the first two pics but abandoned the franchise two years ago after the script for the third edition was nixed by Belgian artist Albert Uderzo, creator of the Asterix comicbooks, and by the descendants of co-author Rene Goscinny. Gerard Jugnot, who had penned the script and was to direct, moved on to other projects.

But 18 months ago Langmann, who had the initial idea to adapt "Asterix," revived the sequel idea and developed a new script based on a different Asterix story, which finally received the blessing of rights holders Tuesday. Uderzo's and Goscinny's daughter, Anne Goscinny, will have extensive say on the project, including screenplay and cast.

Both disliked helmer Alain Chabat's second episode, the $46 million "Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra," starring Monica BellucciMonica Bellucci as Cleopatra, which sold 14 million tixtix in France.

"It has been a long, hard slog, but the difficulties are behind us now," Langmann told Daily Variety Wednesday. Pic is slated to begin shooting in March, with its French release scheduled for early 2007.

At $40 million, Claude Zidi's 1999 "Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar" was then France's costliest pic. It went on to notch up 9.5 million admissions, topping the B.O.B.O. on home turf.

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