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Kinology (“Dracula, a Love Story”) has boarded international sales to “The Big War,” an epic €30-million live action-CGI characters hybrid movie which will mark the directorial comeback of “La Haine” filmmaker Mathieu Kassovitz.

The ambitious feature is adapted from “La Bête Est Morte,” an iconic two-part graphic novel illustrated by Edmond Calvo during War World 2 in Nazi-Occupied France and published after the country was liberated.

Pitched as a “”Paddington” meets ‘Saving Private Ryan,’” “The Big War” is a true passion project for Kassovitz who bought rights to “La Bête est Morte” nearly two decades ago and has now joined forces with well-respected animation producer Aton Soumache, whose credits range from literary adaptations such as the Cesar-winning “The Little Prince” to the global smash-hit “Miraculous: Ladybug & Cat Noir, the Movie.”

Kassovitz and Soumache have assembled a dream team for “The Big War,” including Caroline Thompson, the award-winning screenwriter of “Edward Scissorhands” and “The Nightmare before Christmas,” who penned the script with the filmmaker; and former Cannes Film Festival president and co-founder of Canal+, Pierre Lescure, who serves as associate producer.

Gregoire Melin’s Kinology will kick off international sales at the Cannes Film Festival where both Soumache and Kassovitz will be on hand to meet select buyers. Melin’s sales team will introduce the prestige project with a sizzle reel, script and all designs. The film is slated to enter production in 2025 for an expected delivery in 2026.

“This is one of the most extraordinary stories we’ve ever heard,” said Melin, whose slate also includes Luc Besson’s “Dracula, A Love Tale,” another ambitious project budgeted in the €40-million range. “We can’t wait for Mathieu (Kassovitz) to make it a new milestone masterpiece for all the ages as it has all the components and talents assembled to achieve so!”

“The Big War” will be Kassovitz’s third English language movie after “Gothika” and “Babylon A.D.” and his first movie in 13 years. His last feature film dates back to “Rebellion” in 2011. He most recently directed episodes of the last and fifth season of “Le Bureau des legendes” in which he also starred.

Soumache told Variety that the hybrid film will have the “epic scale of a proper war film like ‘Saving Private Ryan’ with a real backdrop, real tanks, and animals who will be portrayed with realism as in ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Paddington.’”

“It’s a family blockbuster that explains the war with humor, emotions and action,” said Soumache, who also cited “Life is Beautiful” as a reference of an heartfelt and uplifting film boasting some action and revolving around WW2. The producer said Kassovitz will work with famous actors who are in negotiations to voice the lead roles.

“We have interest from about everywhere; and independent distributors are looking for ambitious family movies with high production values that are made outside of studios,” said Soumache.

Speaking for his interest in the book, Kassovitz says he’s been a fan of comicbooks forever and Calvo in particular since his childhood. “He was a brilliant illustrator who made a series called Moustache in the 1940’s which seemed inspired by Walt Disney while being very different and very French. He was a reference for so many illustrators in the world,” said Kassovitz.

“‘La Bête est Morte’ is more of a document that a graphic novel, it’s the bedside book of so many people, either historians or people who fought or lived through the war. It’s a revered book in France, and in England and in the United States where it’s been translated,” he says. “It’s a symbol of the liberation.”

Kassovitz says he’s always been “fascinated” by the “realistic portrayal the war through the perspective of animals,” but he struggled to translate “this historical and literary saga into a two-hour movie and structured with characters, a story and dialogues.”

The actor-director says he also faced difficulties to sell the idea of a live action movie with animation at a time when the technology was very pricey. “Twenty years ago in France it was the early days of these digital tools and in the U.S., a hybrid project like this one about the Second World War was a though sell.”

Kassovitz says when he found out that Soumache had taken over the rights to the book, he thought “it’s exactly who I need. Someone who knows this animation world, and who’s going to be able to turn my ideas into reality.”

Lescure, too, is a lifelong fan of “La Bête est Morte.” “I was born on July 2, 1945 and my dad, who was very much involved in the Resistance, offered me this book on that day.”

“I’ve always had this book with me and when my friends have children I offer it so that they’ll read it when they can. It’s a beautiful book, drawn in a magnificent way by Calvo with crazy colors, and it spans the Atlantic wall, the debacle, Drancy, the torture, the Gestapo, it’s insane,” says Lescure, who hosts a highly popular weekly film-themed magazine Beau geste.

“It’s the story of the Second World War where Americans are buffalos, the French are little rabbits, Germans are wolves, Italians are hyenas, Brits are handsome English dogs and Russians are white bears,” says Lescure.

The producer-journalist says he always thought this book should be turned into a film and even discussed it with Steven Spielberg on the Universal lot in Los Angeles when they were both working there. “At the time Spielberg was working on two major projects, including ‘Schindler’s List,’ so he wasn’t keen on making another project about the Second World War.” Lescure says ultimately Kassovitz is the ideal filmmaker to tackle “La Bête Morte” because he’s “one of the most creative person (he knows).” Lescure and Kassovitz first discussed their shared passion for the cult book while making one of the first episodes of “Beau Geste.”

Kassovitz says he dreams of making a film for the big screen, an “ultimate Second World War that parents will want to bring their children to and children will want to go see it with their parents.”

“My goal is to create a film that will fascinate kids and bring them on an adventure that will strike a chord and make them understand little by little what this war was about, without special effects,” says Kassovitz, who argues that early Disney movies like “Bambi” challenged children in a way that shaped their psychology and appealed to them even though they were terrifying and troubling. “Art is meant to trigger vivid emotions and that’s what we’ll do with ‘The Big War.’”



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