‘The Sitting Duck’ Helmer Jean-Paul Salomé Talks Second Collaboration With Isabelle Huppert, Next Project, The Bureau Sales Unveils Fresh Deals (EXCLUSIVE)

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After taking a break from his filmmaking career to preside over the French film promotion org Unifrance, Jean-Paul Salomé has made a big comeback with a pair of films with Oscar-nominated French actor Isabelle Huppert. The latest one, “The Sitting Duck,” is world premiering at Venice in the Horizons section.

Adapted from Caroline Michel-Aguirre’s book “La Syndicaliste,” “The Sitting Duck” tells the true story of Maureen Kearney, the head union representative of a French multinational nuclear powerhouse who becomes a whistleblower, denouncing top-secret deals that shook the French nuclear sector. One day, Kearney is found in her home, tied to a chair, the letter “A” carved into her abdomen, and a knife handle inserted into her vagina. Traumatized, she has no memory of the assault. However, after an investigation, the police accused her of staging the attack herself.

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Penned by Salomé and Fadette Drouard, the film has already been pre-sold by The Bureau Sales in a raft of territories including Italy (iWonder Pictures), Switerland (Filmcoopi), Benelux (September), Portugal (Lusomundo), Israel (Forum), and Bulgaria (Beta). Le Pacte will distribue in France, and Weltkino will distribute in Germany. The film was produced by Bertrand Faivre on behalf of Le Bureau, and co-produced by Bettina Brokemper at Heimatfilm.

Huppert, who earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle,” fully embraced the demanding role of Kearney, Salomé told Variety.

The pair had just finished shooting “Mamma Weed,” a crime comedy for which Huppert learned to speak Arabic, when Salomé discovered Michel-Aguirre’s book. “After the third page I knew I wanted to adapt this book, and I could envision both the cinematic potential of the story, and how Isabelle could morph into the real-life Maurine even if they are very different,” said Salomé.

“[Huppert] was able to weave in the mystery and ambiguity that are part of the DNA of the project and the actor herself,” he explained. “When you work with Isabelle you don’t need to insist on certain aspects in the script – she will grasp everything right away, instinctively,” Salomé said.

He said that in both “Mamma Weed” and “The Sitting Duck,” Huppert “enjoyed creating characters, transforming herself completely with costumes, make up, in a way that some American actors work,” said Salomé, adding that “when [Huppert] is offered a challenge, she jumps on it.”

Next up, Salomé will tackle another real life character, Czeslaw Bojarski, one of the 20th century’s most successful makers of counterfeit banknotes.  Salomé is in talks with popular French actor Reda Kateb (“Possessions,” “Zero Dark Thirty”), to have him play the lead role.

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