Italy's RAI Fiction has joined forces with France's GMT Communications and France 2 to co-produce Napoleon, the planned four part mini-series starring Christian Clavier (Asterix & Obelix, The Visitors) and Gerard Depardieu.

GMT had been expected to partner with Italy's Mediaset and Germany's KirchGroup/Beta Film on the project (Screendaily, February 17). The three companies formed a joint venture alliance - Epsilon - to produce four titles over three years after the success of the $16m French-language mini-series The Count Of Monte Cristo starring Depardieu.

However, the Italian public broadcaster campaigned heavily for the mini-series at this year's MIP TV in meetings with Depardieu, Clavier and project producer Jean Pierre Guirin. RAI Fiction president Luca Milano said deals with another German broadcaster, as well as an American one, are currently in the pipeline but have not yet been finalised.

A director for the $35m mini-series, which is set to begin shooting in Italy in February, has not yet been chosen. One possibility is Canadian Christian Duguay, who helmed Joan Of Arc for Canadian television in 1999. Duguay's theatrical films include Scanners 2 and The Assignment.

Another, more remote, possibility is Kenneth Branagh, who will play Tsar Alexander I of Russia in the mini-series. Also signed onto the project are Isabella Rossellini, John Malkovich and Jean Reno. Casting for other Italian actors is currently underway.

The big-budget historical drama will be filmed in both French and English. The script is being written by Didier Decoin.