Michelle Williams, Matthias Schoenaerts, Kristin Scott Thomas and Sam Riley star in Saul Dibb’s Second World War drama based on Irène Némirovsky’s best-selling novel.

TF1, Entertainment One, the Weinstein Company and BBC Films have announced the start of principal photography on $20m (€15m) feature Suite Française, which is being shot in Brussels and Paris.

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The film stars Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn), Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone), Kristin Scott Thomas (Only God Forgives), Sam Riley (On The Road), Ruth Wilson (The Lone Ranger), Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street), Alexandra Maria Lara (Rush), Tom Schilling (Oh Boy) and Lambert Wilson (Of Gods and Men).

Suite Française is set in 1940s France and is based on the international best-selling work of writer Irène Némirovsky who died in Auschwitz in 1942.

Williams will play Lucile Angellier who awaits news from her husband, a prisoner of war whilst leading a stifled existence with her domineering mother-in-law, played by Scott Thomas.

When Parisian refugees pour into their small town, soon followed by a regiment of German soldiers who take up residence in the villagers’ homes, Lucile’s life is turned upside down. 

In the Angellier home, Lucile initially tries to ignore Bruno (Schoenaerts), the handsome and refined German officer who has been posted to live with them.  But soon, a powerful love draws them together and traps them in the tragedy of war.

Over 50 years after acclaimed novelist Némirovsky’s death in a concentration camp, her daughter discovered the story her journals. 

TF1 Droits Audiovisuels acquired the rights to the novel in 2007 from Denoel Editions, which has since been adapted for the screen by director Saul Dibb (The Duchess) and co-writer Matt Charman.

Suite Française is a France-UK-Belgium co-production and will be released in France by TF1, while eOne will handle direct distribution in UK, Spain and Canada. 

TWC will handle the US rights, as well as distribution rights in Latin America, Australia, Russia and Germany. 

Sales agent TF1 International has also sold the film in Benelux (Dutch Film Works), Scandinavia (Nordisk Film), Switzerland (Pathe), Israel (Lev Cinema) and Portugal (Lusomundo) and is in advanced negotiations for the other territories. The feature is also backed by BBC Films.

 Xavier Marchand will serve as a producer on behalf of eOne alongside Romain Brémond who will serve as a producer on behalf of TF1 DA.  Qwerty Films’ Michael Kuhn and Andrea Cornwell are producing and Harvey Weinstein will serve as executive producer alongside BBC Films’ Christine Langan.

Composer Alexandre Desplat (Argo), production designer Michael Carlin (The Duchess), costume designer Michael O’Connor (The Duchess, Jane Eyre), editor Chris Dickens (Slumdog Millionaire) and director of photography Eduard Grau (The Awakening, A Single Man) are all on board.