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Loma Nasha, Gaumont morph into deal

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CHAMPALLEMENT, France -- French independent producer Loma Nasha Films is readying two projects with Gallic major Gaumont, the first of which is the true story of impersonator and international fraud Frederic Bourdin.

"The Chameleon," to be directed by Jean-Paul Salome ("Belphegor"), will recount the life of Frenchman Bourdin, who at age 24 pretended to be the missing 13-year-old son of a Texas couple. Perhaps more incredible than his impersonation was the fact that the couple said they believed he was their son. After being exposed, Bourdin was sentenced to six years in a Texas jail.

Romain Duris ("The Beat That My Heart Skipped") will play the lead. "He's given his agreement in principle," Loma Nasha co-chief Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar said.

Co-written by Salome and Nathalie Carter, the movie is based on the book "The Chameleon" by Christophe d'Antonio. The mainly English-language project was jointly developed by Loma Nasha and Gaumont, who will handle world sales on the film, and will be co-produced with Ram Bergman ("Brick"). Shooting is likely for spring next year.

Salome is now shooting World War II drama "Les Femmes de l'Ombre" (Female Agents) for TF1 International.

The second project with Gaumont is "The Vercors," a World War II drama about the eponymous high plateau near Grenoble in the French Alps, seen as strategically important due to its natural fortifications.

The film will recount the ill-fated "Montagnard Plan" backed by the Allies and General de Gaulle, according to which the plateau would become a haven for Resistance fighters and a drop zone for airborne commandos, from where they would strike at German forces.

But in June 1944, the German army launched an assault on the plateau, eventually regaining control of the Vercors at a heavy cost to the Resistance. "It's sort of a French Alamo; a place of hope and great sacrifice," Mention-Schaar said. "It was a rallying place for several hundred young people who wanted to save the honor of their country. They nearly all got massacred."

Veteran screenwriter Jean Cosmos is writing "Vercors." No director or cast are as yet attached. Budgeted in the $17 million-19 million bracket, the film is scheduled to shoot in summer 2008.

Mention-Schaar's recent producer credits include Pierre Jolivet's romantic comedy "Je crois que je l'aime" (Could This Be Love), which sold more than 830,000 tickets in France.