EXCLUSIVE: French genre director Xavier Gens is set to direct a comedy crime caper inspired by the real-life robbery of Claude Monet’s Impression, Soleil Levant from a Paris museum in 1986.

The filmmaker, best known for the horror movie Frontiers and thriller Hitman, is developing the French-language picture with production powerhouses LGM and Gaumont.

The film is based on the true story of a bunch of petty criminals, who stole paintings by Camille Corot and Monet in the 1980s and then sold them to the Japanese Yakuza.

When the Japanese Mafia failed to pay up fully, the gang flew to Tokyo and robbed a bank truck to make up the shortfall.

“It’s based on true events which sparked a diplomatic incident between France and Japan at the time,” explains Gens. “It will be in the vein of British crime comedies such as The Italian Job and Guy Richie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Provisionally entitled Les Authentiques, the film is due to shoot in Spring 2013 in various locations including Paris, Tokyo, Singapore, Thailand, Mexico and Luxembourg.  Gens is currently fine tuning the script which transposes the tale to a contemporary setting.

“Xavier is committed to the shoot in spring 2013,” says LGM head of development Cyril Hauguel. “We love the modernity of Xavier’s mise en scene and think it will work well with this story. ”

Paris-based LGM’s recent productions include the biopic of French pop legend Claude François Cloclo and Olivier Marchal’s gangster revenge picture A Gang Story (Les Lyonnais). The company is currently shooting comic strip adaptation Boule et Bill.

Alongside Les Authentiques, Gens is also developing his “passion” project Cold Skin, an adaptation of Albert Sanchez Pinol’s best-selling Skin about a man who is sent to a remote Antarctic islands inhabited by amphibious humanoids.

The director plans to shoot in Iceland and is currently developing the look of the film with Tony Noble, production designer on his last film The Divide.

Gens is also producing a trio series of low budget genre pictures with Blanc/Biehn Productions and UK-based Aspect Film.