UPIS makes first French co-production

Universal int’l, Studio 37 team on Gainsbourg film

LONDON -- The early life and rise to fame of French iconoclast Serge Gainsbourg is headed to the big screen courtesy of Universal Pictures International Studio.

The project marks the first French-language effort for Universal's overseas production division, which will team with French co-production and finance label Studio 37. It also represents a major step in the stated aim of partnering on projects in the territories where UPI distributes.

"Serge Gainsbourg" (Vie Heroique), which begins shooting in January in Paris, will be the directorial debut of French graphic artist Joann Sfar. The film stars Eric Elmosnino as Gainsbourg, Laetitia Casta as Brigitte Bardot and Mylene Jampanoi as Bambou.

It traces Gainsbourg's life from a young boy in 1940s occupied Paris and his subsequent transformation into the world renowned poet, songwriter and singer.

Universal Pictures International Studio president Christian Grass and Studio 37 managing director Frederique Dumas announced the co-production Monday.

Sfar's movie is produced by Marc du Pontavice and Didier Lupfer of One World Films from Sfar's own script.

UPI holds French theatrical distribution and home video rights to the project and will release the movie in theaters in France in 2010. Studio 37 holds the international sales rights, which will be run by Kinology. The co-production is being overseen by Dumas and Clare Wise, senior vp international production at UPIS.

"Joann Sfar is a huge talent who has a truly original vision," Grass said. "His cutting edge creativity and unique take on the character of Serge Gainsbourg is what really drew us to this project -- the first local language film we'll be co-producing in France."