Emma Mackey, the breakout star of Netflix’s hit show Sex Education, will make her French-language debut opposite Romain Duris in Pathé’s upcoming €22m ($20m) production Eiffel, revolving around the untold love story behind the creation of the Eiffel Tower.
The project is currently in pre-production for an August 2019 shoot. Pathé International kicks off sales at Cannes with Pathé retaining French and Swiss rights.
Mackey will play Adrienne Bourgès, a mysterious, high-born woman linked to celebrated engineer Gustave Eiffel’s past.
The storyline takes its cue from Eiffel’s search for inspiration as he comes under pressure to design something spectacular for the1889 Paris World Fair, following his triumphant collaboration with Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi on the Statue of Liberty.
A chance meeting with long-lost, forbidden passion Adrienne inspires him to change the Paris skyline forever, with a feat of engineering commemorating her name, which has since become a symbol of France and been climbed by some 300m visitors to date.
Martin Bourboulon, whose credits include divorce comedy-dramas Mummy Or Daddy and Divorce French Style, will direct. “I was born in Paris, and this city has always been my home. I grew up amidst the many monuments rich with history that make this capital so special. Amongst them, the Eiffel Tower. This extraordinary tower, the emblem of the city’s international fame par excellence, has always been part of my life,” said the director.
It will be the first big-screen, French-language role for bilingual French-British actress Mackey, who grew up in a small town outside the French city of Le Mans before moving to the UK for university.
“The choice of Mackey was obvious. I discovered her in Sex Education. Her strong personality comes through in her acting – she is a romantic-rock actress whose talent dazzles,” said Bourboulon.
Mackey, who plays the mysterious and sassy figure of Maeve Wiley in Sex Education, said she was drawn to the role for the strength of Adrienne’s character.
“Playing Maeve has given me more confidence in myself and set the bar high. I’m not going to go after characters who are secondary or don’t have their own narrative or personality. Adrienne is the perfect example of a woman who is so ahead of her time, who is her own person and her own entity,” she said.
Bourboulon worked closely with writers Caroline Bongrand, Tatiana de Rosnay (Moka, Boomerang, Sarah’s Key) and Thomas Bidegain (The Sisters Brothers, A Prophet) to develop a screenplay carrying his vision for the film.
Vanessa van Zuylen VVZ Production/L’Insensé Films is lead producer on the feature being produced by Pathé Film. Her past credits include Up For Love, co-starring Jean Dujardin and Virginie Efira.
“Our ultimate reference, humbly, was James Cameron’s Titanic. Except that, contrary to Jack and Rose, Gustave Eiffel and Adrienne Bourgès really existed and lived a passionate love story,” said van Zuylen. “The Eiffel Tower was born from this passion, going on to become since 1889 a symbol of French influence throughout the world.”
Award-winning production designer Michel Barthélémy, who credits include Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers and A Prophet and François Ozon’s Frantz, and cinematographer Matias Boucard (The Odyssey) are also on board.