Protagonist to sell Paris-set comedy-drama; Rachael Horovitz, Raphael Benoliel among producers.

Dame Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline, Jane Birkin and Dominique Pinon will star in My Old Lady, a Paris-based dramatic comedy marking the feature film directorial debut of playwright and screenwriter Israel Horovitz, who has adapted his stageplay for the screen.

Principal photography is due to begin in Paris on September 9.

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Protagonist Pictures is introducing the project to international buyers at Cannes. Cinetic Media is handling the North American sale.

In My Old Lady, Kline will play Mathias, a down-and-out New Yorker, who travels to Paris to liquidate a huge, valuable apartment he has inherited from his estranged father.

In Paris, Mathias discovers a refined old lady Mathilde (Smith) living in the apartment with her daughter Chloé (Birkin). Mathias quickly learns that the apartment is a “viager” - an ancient French system for buying and selling property - and that he will not actually get possession of the apartment until Mathilde dies.

Rachael Horovitz, Oscar-nominated producer of Moneyball, Grey Gardens and About Schmidt, is producing with French producers Raphael Benoliel (Midnight In Paris, Les Miserables), Nitsa Benchetrit and David Barrot. Co-producing is French stage-producer Marie-Cécile Renauld.

Playwright and screenwriter Israel Horovitz said: “Of all my stage-plays, My Old Lady is my very favourite.

“I’ve seen my play on stage around the globe … in NYC [starring Sian Phillips], in Prague, in Russia in St. Petersburg and at The Moscow Art Theatre, in Paris, in Barcelona and Madrid [Querida Matilde, starring Lola Herrera].

“For years, this play has cried out to me to be seen in its Paris setting, to become a film…to create this film with Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline, Jane Birkin and Dominique Pinon is beyond thrilling. For me, this defines thrilling.”

Smith added: “I am thrilled to be part of such a fantastic project. I am very much looking forward to it.”

Horovitz’s screenwriting credits include The Strawberry Statement (Prix de Jury, Festival de Cannes, 1970), Al Pacino comedy Author! Author! and Istvan Szabo’s sweeping epic, Sunshine.