Endeavor, ICM ink directors

El Mechri, Laugier find representation in Toronto

TORONTO -- Not only are acquisitions finally taking hold at the Toronto International Film Festival, but agencies are starting to sign filmmakers as well.

Endeavor has inked Mabrouk El Mechri, the man behind the Jean-Claude Van Damme parody action comedy "JCVD." ICM, meanwhile, is close to signing Pascal Laugier, the writer-director behind the horror movie "Martyrs."

"JCVD," which sees Van Damme playing himself as he's taken hostage during a holdup, has been building buzz at Toronto.

Paris-born El Mechri, whose first effort was the 2005 French film "Virgil," co-wrote the script and spent time earning the trust of Van Damme, who eventually relented and said, "You can do whatever you want with me."

"Martyrs," which continues France's new wave of horror movies and is part of Toronto's Midnight Madness slate, follows a victim of childhood abuse who seeks vengeance years later with the help of another victim. The two get more than they bargained for.

The movie reportedly sparked a protest by France's Society of Film Directors after the Film Commission handed it a harsh 18+ rating, a first for a French genre film.