Arsène Lupin, the French gentleman burglar who not only commits crimes but solves them, is to return to the screen, reports The Wrap.
The prospective directors of the project, which is set up at Warner Bros., are Espen Sandberg and Joachim Rønning, whose “Kon-Tiki” is the Norwegian entry for this year’s Foreign Language Oscar and was recently picked up for US distribution by the Weinstein Company. It depicts Thor Heyerdahl’s 5,000-mile journey across the Pacific on a home-made raft in 1947.
The ultra-suave Lupin, invariably attired in Belle Époque evening address, is a moral criminal who takes on more heinous villains than himself. Created by Maurice Leblanc (1864-1941), he made his debut in July 1905. Antecedents include Rocambole, author Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail’s villain-turned-do-gooder, and the cynical Victorian gentleman thief A.J. Raffles, invented in the 1890s by E.W. Hornung, Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law. Lupin predated the murderous adventurer Fantômas by five years.
The character was born in 1874 and trained in boxing and fencing by his father, a teacher of gymnastics. His initial crime was the theft of a necklace from an arrogant relative who had hired Lupin’s divorced mother. Leblanc completed 20 volumes of Lupin stories and was working on the 21st, “The Last Love of Arsène Lupin,” when he died. The series had earned him the Legion of Honor for its appeal to French patriotism and pride.
A veteran of 22 movies and five television series, Lupin first appeared in a movie in 1908. John Barrymore played him in MGM’s 1932 pre-Code entry (see clip below), Melvyn Douglas in 1936, Jules Berry in 1937, and Romain Duris (above) in 2004. The version released in Japan last year was the fifth made in that country.
Currently known as “Arsène Lupin AKA Once a Thief,” the new film will be produced by Dan Lin of Lin Pictures and Roy Lee of Vertigo entertainment. Lin was behind Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” (2009) and “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” (2011), so Lupin’s escapades will likely get a technologically-enhanced makeover, as did those of Holmes and Dr. Watson.
It’s not impossible that there could be some cross-fertilization. Lupin was a literary rival of Doyle’s Baker Street detective. The characters first met in Leblanc’s 1906 “Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late,” published in the French magazine Je sais tout. Doyle insisted that Lupin’s Holmes become “Herlock Sholmes” when the story was collected in Volume 1 of the Lupin book series.
Thief and sleuth encountered each other again in two stories in Volume 2, and have subsequently matched wits in a 2008 PC 3D video game and in Boris Akunin’s 2008 novella “The Prisoner of the Tower, or A Short But Beautiful Journey of Three Wise Men.” Can Lin and his directors resist a little friendly rivalry with Holmes when Lupin sweep into his next Hollywood picture?
Image: Romaine Duris in the 2004 film “Arsène Lupin”/ Courtesy Hugo Films
Below: John Barrymore and Karen Morley in “Arsène Lupin” (1932)
Tags: Arsène Lupin, Arthur Conan-Doyle, Espen Sandberg, Graham Fuller, Joachim Rønning, John Barrymore, Jules Berry, Karen Morley, Kon-Tiki, Maurice Leblanc, Melvyn Douglas, Raffles, Rocambole, Romain Duris, Sherlock Holmes