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Stuart Townsend to star in conspiracy series

EXCLUSIVE: Thriller to air in France, Canada next year

Stuart Townsend will topline a conspiracy thriller series called "XIII" for Canada's Prodigy Pictures and France's Cipango. The series is set to air in France on Canal Plus in 2011 and on Showcase in Canada in spring 2011.

The hourlong drama is based on Jean Van Hamme's eponymous graphic novel, which has sold 13 million copies worldwide since the first volume was published 25 years ago.

Townsend will play "XIII," a former secret agent who cannot remember his past and thus sets out to uncover his true identity. Hunted by an anti-government organization, XIII quickly realizes that the closer he gets to the truth, the more deadly the mission becomes.

Prodigy's Jay Firestone is executive producing along with Cipango's Edouard De Vesinne and Thomas Anargyros. Gil Grant ("NCIS: Los Angeles," "24") wrote the pilot episode and will serve as the series' showrunner and executive producer. Peter Mohan will co-executive produce the project.

Duane Clark ("CSI: NY") is set to helm three of the 13 episodes as well as co-executive produce. Wanda Chaffey will be producing the series, which will air on Canal Plus in France and Showcase in Canada. No U.S. network pickup has as yet been unveiled.

"XIII" begins lensing in Toronto in the fall.

Townsend previously wrote, directed and produced the indie pic "Battle in Seattle," starring Woody Harrelson, Michelle Rodriguez and Charlize Theron. He also voiced characters on the Adult Swim series "Robot Chicken."

He is represented by UTA and Artists Independent Management.

A veteran Canuck producer-distributor, Firestone set up Prodigy four years ago and has several other projects in the worksm including William Gibson's "Neuromancer." Gaul's Cipango is best known for M6's cop show "The Rookies" and was recently snapped up by Luc Besson's EuropaCorp, which took a 75% stake.