Making France's "Intouchables" bankable in the U.S.

Fri May 25, 2012 6:00pm EDT
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By Jordan Riefe

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Last year around this time of France's Cannes film festival, movie producer Harvey Weinstein pondered how to turn a silent black-and-white film, "The Artist," into Oscar gold. His answer was to charm the socks off audiences with a simple tale of old Hollywood romance.

This year, his Weinstein Co. has a different French movie on its hands with buddy comedy "The Intouchables," a box office smash around the world that opens in the United States on Friday with a race relations story that may not translate as easily for U.S. audiences.

Nevertheless, after winning the best film Oscar in February with "The Artist," Weinstein is heavily promoting its new French movie, "Intouchables," and even if it fails to set cash registers ringing at U.S. box offices, the company has a Plan B - an English-language version is in the works.

"We're happy to have ‘The Artist' and now to work on ‘The Intouchables," The Weinstein Co.'s David Glasser told Reuters. "Harvey has always been a lover of foreign film. And obviously this year, we have a lot of French films which are incredible."

Based on a true story, "The Intouchables" follows an inner city petty criminal, played by Omar Sy, who is hired to care for a quadriplegic aristocrat, portrayed by Francois Cluzet. While it's rough going at first, the two become fast friends and impact each other in unexpected ways.

After shattering box office records in its home country, "The Intouchables," has gone on to sell an astonishing $340 million in tickets worldwide with its odd couple comedy audiences can't seem to resist.

"How do you deal with a handicap? How do you deal with a black character? All those things need to be addressed," Sy told Reuters. "That's the great challenge and the great opportunity, actually, to work with clichés and not fall into traps."


CEO of The Weinstein Company Harvey Weinstein arrives at the 16th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles January 23, 2010. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (FILM-SAGAWARDS/ARRIVALS)