Italian actress Monica Bellucci has reportedly signed to play Cleopatra opposite Christian Clavier and Gerard Depardieu in Renn Productions' Asterix And Obelix In The Service Of Cleopatra.

The first Asterix film, Asterix And Obelix Vs Caesar, was France's most expensive production at $50m and topped the French box office during 1999. The sequel, which is scheduled to start shooting this autumn, is likely to carry a similar price tag.

While the first Asterix was directed by chart-topping comedy veteran, Claude Zidi, the sequel will be directed by relative newcomer Alain Chabat. Renn's Claude Berri produced Chabat's first film - comedy fantasy Didier, about a dog who is turned into a man and becomes a top soccer player - which won best first film at the Cesar Awards in 1998.

Chabat - who was nominated for the best actor Cesar for his lead role in Didier - has cast himself as Caesar, played by German actor Gottfried John in the first Asterix film. He will reportedly fill out the cast with a raft of fashionable young French actors including Edouard Baer, Dieudonne, Dominique Faruggia and Jamel Debbouzze.