Jacques Audiard on his Upcoming Musical Thriller ‘Emilia Perez’

Jacques Audiard, the Oscar-nominated French director (“A Prophet”), is finally getting ready to shoot his next film, “Emilia Perez,” this spring with a cast led by Karla Sofia Gascón, Selena Gomez and Zoe Saldaña.

After “Paris, 13th District,” an intimate black-and-white film about millennial love, Audiard is aiming to build a larger canvas for “Emilia Perez,” a musical crime comedy which Audiard tells Variety will lense in a studio near Paris instead of Mexico, as originally planned.

Gascón, a rising Argentinian trans actor, will play a feared Mexican cartel leader who undergoes a sex change to get away from the law, becoming the woman he’s always wanted to be.

Audiard says the idea for “Emilia Perez” came to him more than two years ago as “an opera libretto in four acts,” and that’s how he wrote the treatment.

“It was the first time that an idea [for a film] came to me under this shape and that might explain why I will direct the movie in a studio,” says Audiard. “It’s like a return to a primary intuition.”

Audiard has assembled a renown creative team for the film: composer Clement Ducol, singer, songwriter/composer Camille, and choreographer Damien Jalet.

The Palme d’Or winning director says filming in a studio will give him “more freedom for the parts that are sung and choreographed.” Although shooting on location has its advantages, notably in terms of production costs, it can also be restrictive in terms of space, light and availability.

Audiard adds that the studio will also allow him to “produce more form,” suggesting that “Emilia Perez” will have a rich visual style. And interior scenes require the reconstruction of an authentic Mexican backdrop.

As Variety previously reported, the shoot was delayed by six months due to scheduling conflicts.

“Emilia Perez” will mark Audiard’s follow-up to “Paris, 13th District” which world premiered in competition at Cannes in 2021. Audiard previously made his English-language directorial debut with “The Sisters Brothers,” a Venice-prizewinning film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal and John C. Reilly. Audiard, who won the Palme d’Or at Cannes with “Dheepan” in 2015, is best known for his Oscar-nominated film “A Prophet” in which Tahar Rahim delivered a breakthrough performance. 

“Emilia Perez” is the first film penned by Audiard alone. Thomas Bidegain, who co-wrote several films with Audiard, including “A Prophet,” “Dheepan” and “The Sisters Brothers,” is acting as a creative collaborator on the movie.

“Emilia Perez” is produced by Pascal Caucheteux’s Why Not Productions, as well as Audiard and Valérie Schermann through their Paris-based banner Page 114. The Veterans, Vincent Maraval and Kim Fox’s banner, is handling international sales, while CAA Media Finance is representing North American territories.

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