Cazale in the ring for Perez biopic

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BERLIN -- Nicolas Cazale, France's entry in this year's Shooting Star lineup, is set to play the lead in a biopic about Victor "Young" Perez, the 1920s boxing champ who died in the Holocaust.

The movie is to be directed by Steve Suissa and produced under his Les Films de l'Espoir banner. The screenplay is by Suissa and Stephane Cabel ("Brotherhood of the Wolf").

A Tunisian-born Jew, Perez was the youngest-ever flyweight world champ at age 21. He dated screen actress Mireille Balin, who starred opposite Jean Gabin in "Pepe le Moko," but after they broke up his career turned bad. During World War II he was deported by the French militia to the Nazi death camps, where the SS made him box amateur heavyweights. "It's a terrific script based on a fabulous but largely forgotten story. It's not really a film about boxing, it's more the story of a man with real values," Cazale said.

Suissa, whose grandfather used to live in the same building as Perez in Tunisia, said the project is on standby until partners come on board to complete the €10 million ($14.5 million) budget. French producer-distributor ARP was attached to the project but dropped out. The movie will be shot in Paris and Tunis.

In parallel, Suissa is co-directing a TV documentary on Perez's life. "The documentary will see light of day at end of year," he said. Suissa's credits include "Cavalcade" starring Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") and "The Great Role."
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