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Jesse Eisenberg to Play Marcel Marceau in French Resistance Tale

Variety logo Variety 5/19/2017 Brent Lang
© Provided by Variety

Jesse Eisenberg has been tapped to play legendary mime Marcel Marceau in “Resistance.”

This won’t be the usual artist biopic, however. The film will focus on Marceau’s involvement in the French resistance when his country was occupied by the Nazis during World War II.

The film’s backers compare it to “Life Is Beautiful,” the 1999 Oscar-winner about a man using comedy to help his son cope with the Holocaust. In a similar vein, Marceau learned to mime to survive and to save the lives of Jewish orphans whose parents had just been killed by the Nazis. Before taking on his stage persona of Bip the Clown, he was born Marcel Mangel to a kosher butcher from Strasbourg. His father was eventually killed in Auschwitz.

Marceau gave his first major performance to 3,000 American troops of General Patton’s army after the liberation of Paris in August 1944. He went on to perform for six more decades, winning an Emmy and numerous other honors. He was made Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur (1998) and was awarded the National Order of Merit (1998) in France for his work in the resistance.

Jonathan Jakubowicz (“Hands of Stone”) will direct and write the picture.

Eisenberg was nominated for an Oscar for his work in “The Social Network.” His other credits include “The Squid and the Whale,” “Now You See Me,” “Cafe Society” and “Justice League.” Many of these roles are on the dramatic end of the spectrum, but role of Marceau has some resonance for Eisenberg — his mother worked as a professional clown.

“Resistance” will be produced by Claudine Jakubowicz and Carlos Garcia de Paredes, who produced and put together the financing for “Hands of Stone.” The film is being set as a European co-production. Baptiste Marceau, the mime’s oldest son, has been closely involved in the research of the film and will serve as executive producer.

“Resistance” will shoot in early 2018. CAA is packaging and representing the film at the Cannes Film Festival.

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