In first major role after The Artist, Bérénice Bejo set to play investigative journalist Tante Julia in adaptation of French writer Daniel Pennac’s classic The Scapegoat (Au Bonheur des Ogres).

The Artist star Bérénice Bejo has signed up for an adaptation of Daniel Pennac’s The Scapegoat (Au Bonheur des Ogres) alongside Raphaël Personnaz and Emir Kusturica, producer Dimitri Rassam has confirmed. 

“We began the conversation with Bérénice before The Artist took-off but her performance in the film of course reconfirmed our desire to have her in the cast,” says Rassam of Paris-based Chapter 2.

The Scapegoat is the second feature for 31-year-old director Nicolas Bary after his 2008 children’s fantasy Trouble at Timpetill (Les Enfants de Timpelbach), which Chapter 2 also produced.

The €11.8 million production is a co-production between Chapter 2 and Pathé, which distributed Bary’s last picture and has taken on French distribution rights and international sales for this film.

Luxembourg’s Bidibul Productions and Belgian Nexus Factory are attached as co-producers. Other partners include France 2, Canal+ and Ciné+.

The Scapegoat, published in 1985, is the first of five books by Pennac revolving around the chaotic Malaussène clan living in Paris’ bohemian Belleville neighbourhood. 

To date the series has sold more than five million copies in France. Pennac, however, has been reluctant to cede film rights for the books.

“These books were very present in our childhood but we had no idea of just how successful they had been,” says 30-year-old Rassam. “So we very naively contacted Daniel Pennac some three years ago and I guess after having turned down a lot of people over the years he found an echo in Nicolas’ approach to the property and gave us the go-ahead to adapt his work.”

The Scapegoat revolves around Benjamin Malaussène,a “professional scapegoat”, who works as a quality controller in a Paris department store, taking the blame for customer complaints. When a bomb goes off in the toy department, he is a key suspect. He starts investigating the crime to clear his name. 

Personnaz, 30, who was recently seen in Stéphane Rybojad’s Special Forces and before that Bertrand Tavernier’s The Princess of Montpensier, has signed for the role.

Bejo will co-star as his girlfriend Julie Corrençon, a ballsy, investigative journalist who’s not afraid to break the rules and goes by the nickname of Tante Julia. Emir Kusturica is also set to make an appearance as Stojil, Benjamin’s Serbian-Croatian petty criminal uncle.

Shooting is scheduled to start 16 February 2012 for 11 weeks in Paris and the Delux Studios in Luxembourg, where the interior of a Paris department store, based on the legendary La Samaritaine by the Pont Neuf, is currently being constructed.

Chapter 2’s other projects in development include a feature animation adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince and Alexandre Aja’s next project Cobra: The Space Pirate, which it is co-producing with Onyx Films.