Alain Attal and Hugo Selignac have formed a producing duo known for delivering original, starry French films that probe uneasy subjects that earn B.O. gold and critical laurels. Attal is in Cannes with Un Certain Regard title “Rosalie,” while Selignac has “Omar à la Fraise” in Critics’ Week.
The pair is now about to hit a new milestone in 2024, starting with Gilles Lellouche’s epic romance drama “L’Amour Ouf,” which boasts a budget of €32 million ($34 million) and marks Studiocanal’s biggest investment in a French-language film to date. They also have “And Their Children After Them,” an adaptation of Nicolas Mathieu’s Goncourt Prize-winning novel to be directed by Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma (“Teddy”), which has been boarded by Warner Bros. France and HBO Max and France Televisions, the first French movie to bring together these three partners.
“L’Amour Ouf” also marks the first film co-acquired by Canal Plus, Netflix (for SVOD rights) and France Televisions. The fact that both movies are backed by a rare combination of traditional players and streamers underscores their sizable budgets and commercial potential. “L’Amour Ouf” was penned by Lellouche, Audrey Diwan (“Happening”) and Ahmed Hamidi, based on Neville Thomson’s novel. The film begins in Eastern France in the 1980s and spans 20 years.
‘L’Amour Ouf,” which stars François Civil, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Benoit Poelvoorde, Alain Chabat, Vincent Lacoste, Jean-Pascal Zadi and Élodie Bouchez, also boasts a pricey music score with well-known tunes of the 1980s and 1990s from artists including The Cure, New Order, Nas, Madonna and Jay-Z. The 18-week shoot started earlier this month for an expected delivery in October 2024.
“L’Amour Ouf” tells the story of an impossible love between two people from different social classes. It opens in a blue-collar region in northeastern France, as a girl from an upper-middle-class family and a boy from a modest background fall madly in love but drift apart; he eventually becomes a criminal and spends 12 years in prison.
Citing “The Notebook” and “Once Upon a Time in America,” Attal and Selignac described the film as a “love rollercoaster, mixing love, violence and dance.” The producers have hired the contemporary dance collective La Horde, which is currently working with Sam Smith, to create three dances expressing the two protagonists’ strong feelings. The third ballet will bring together as many as 32 dancers.
“And Their Children After Them,” budgeted north of €12 million ($13 million), follows three teenagers from a rural northern region across four summers, from 1992 to 1999.
The film also has a top-notch cast led by Paul Kircher, who is the star of Thomas Cailley’s “Animal Kingdom,” which opened Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, Angelina Woreth, Sayyid El Alami and Anaïs Demoustier. The music score is also packed by songs by stars such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, NTM, Johnny Hallyday and R.E.M.
On “And Their Children After Them,” Selignac and Attal said they were able to scoop the book rights because they came with a different proposal than other producers. “Nicolas Mathieu had been approached by all these filmmakers who wanted to make very naturalistic adaptations, and we told him we had huge ambitions and we wanted to make a film in the vein of Paul Thomas Anderson and Martin Scorsese,” said Selignac.
Attal added, “We want to put some romanesque inside the radical and austere world depicted in the book. We thought, ‘We’re not going to make it a joyful film, but we want to inject some beauty and light into this little town.’ That struck a chord.”
Indeed, Selignac and Attal also have a taste for making films that talk about modern society but not in the tradition of French cinema known for its social realism.
Besides star-studded casts, Attal and Selignac’s films are always passion projects initiated by filmmakers. “Each film we make comes from a director, who comes with an idea, a book or something, and we’re there to guide these filmmakers along the way to make sure that they come up with a good script and make a film with an audience in mind,” Attal said.
Selignac said times have changed since he started working in the industry nearly two decades ago, and directors play an increasingly big role in the promotion of their films. “Before the actors were at the center of film promotion, but we’re seeing that filmmakers are way more in demand to give interviews and discuss their movies. When people I know talk about a successful promotion campaign, they often mention hearing the directors talk about the subject of their films,” said Selignac.
Selignac, whose step father is Etienne Chatiliez, the French helmer of iconic films such as “La Vie est un Long Fleuve Tranquille” and “Tatie Danielle,” started working with Attal right out of high school and learned the ropes under Attal’s wing before launching his own production label, Chi-Fou-Mi, which became part of Mediawan in 2021. While they’re no longer sharing the same offices, they like to joke that they have shared custody of filmmakers they started producing together, notably Lellouche and Herry. Both Lellouche and Herry are part of a family of beloved – and bankable — French talent that Selignac and Attal have nurtured throughout the years, along with Exarchopoulos, Civil, Demoustier, Leïla Bekhti and Bouchez who often turn up in the cast of their films.
But as Selignac pointed out, “Today stars don’t guarantee a success, and if you have a bad movie, you can’t trick audiences with a cast like 10 years ago. You have the right ingredients if you have a good script, a good subject and two or three stars, at least that’s our method.”
The pair have dared to make popular films with touchy subjects, different from the type of local comedies that tend to do well in France. Case in point: Lellouche’s “Le Grand Bain,” which sold more than 4.2 million tickets with a story about men joining a synchronized swimming team to overcome their midlife crises, while Jeanne Herry’s “Pupille,” about the adoption of an orphan, sold nearly 900,000 tickets. They also produced French submarine thriller “The Wolf’s Call,” directed by Antonin Baudry — who had never directed a film before — and sold 1.5 million tickets.
Their latest collaboration, “All Your Faces,” has so far sold over 1 million tickets with a plot revolving around perpetrators and victims of offenses who confront each other under a restorative justice plan.