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As Leos Carax’s Adam Driver Musical ‘Annette’ Finally Starts Shooting, What Took So Long?

Carax's "Annette," which is now filming with stars Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, is a curious case of casting musical chairs.

French Director Leos Carax Receives an Honorary Award During the Locarno Film Festival in Locarno Switzerland 03 August 2012 the 65th Locarno Film Festival Runs From 01 to 11 August 2012 Switzerland Schweiz Suisse LocarnoSwitzerland Locarno Film Festival - Aug 2012

Leos Carax

Urs Flueeler/EPA/Shutterstock

As announced this month, French director Leos Carax’s “Annette” is finally in production after years of stops and starts. Carax’s first feature since 2012’s “Holy Motors” and his first full-on English-language film, “Annette” is a musical set in Los Angeles that will feature original music from the ’70s rock band Sparks and tells a love story between a stand-up comic (Adam Driver) and an opera star (Marion Cotillard). Also joining the cast is Simon Helberg (“The Big Bang Theory”) in a role mysteriously dubbed “The Conductor.”

Both actors do their own singing (and if you’ve seen “Marriage Story,” you know Driver has the pipes). And Cotillard brought tragic singer Edith Piaf lovingly back to life for 2007’s “La Vie En Rose,” which earned her a Best Actress Academy Award. Adding to the intrigue, music producer Marius de Vries — known for his work on “La La Land,” “Moulin Rouge,” and “Cats” — will collaborate with Sparks.

Amazon Studios has the U.S. rights for the production; presumably, a fall 2019 production start date indicates a possible Cannes 2020 bow. (All of Carax’s films have premiered at Cannes, outside of 1986’s “Mauvais Sang.”) However, an Amazon representative confirmed to IndieWire that the film’s release strategy — theatrical vs. Prime Video — won’t be determined until Amazon sees the film.

“Annette” was announced in fall 2016, with Driver, Rooney Mara, and Rihanna set to star. Soon after the announcement, Amazon Studios picked up the film. Cameras were to start rolling in the spring, but Rihanna and Mara dropped out. (Mara dropped out of another musical movie in early 2018, “Vox Lux,” and was replaced by Natalie Portman.) Michelle Williams stepped in to replace Mara, only to also drop out, later appearing in another song-and-dance story in FX’s “Fosse/Verdon.” Finally, Cotillard joined the film in May 2019.

In an interview with Independent in May 2018, Sparks singer Russell Mael — originally credited as the film’s cowriter with his brother and fellow Sparks frontman, Ron Mael — said that “Annette” was “taking longer than we had hoped” due to Driver’s commitments to the “Star Wars” franchise. With “The Rise of Skywalker” debuting this Christmas, those days are done.

Regarding Rihanna’s once-rumored appearance in the film, Russell Mael said: “She had this one small cameo picked, and now I’m not even sure she will be doing that … It was a possibility at one point, but it was going to be a very small part. We were starting to read things like ‘Rihanna drops out of project!’ It was not like she had ever really been fully attached, and her role was minor at best.”

Despite all the casting attrition, it appears there is already some filmed material in existence. In a 2017 interview with Independent, Ron Mael said, “Leos has shot three of the songs with Adam Driver. We got together with Adam Driver and told him it shouldn’t be a Broadway thing, but should be more naturalistic with a certain pop sensibility and he totally understood that.”

Filming will take place in Los Angeles, Germany, and Belgium. While filming in Belgium earlier this month, Driver helped Carax successfully locate his lost dog.

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