Maggie Cheung’s 1996 French art film Irma Vep is being adapted by HBO into a limited series.
The original film’s French director Olivier Assayas — who was once married to Cheung — will write and direct the remake with Alicia Vikander in the lead role. It will be produced by A24, the team behind HBO’s Zendaya-starring teen drama Euphoria.
Vikander will play Mira, an American movie star disillusioned by her career and a recent breakup, who moves to France to star as Irma Vep in a remake of the French silent film classic Les Vampires. Set against the backdrop of a lurid crime thriller, Mira struggles as the distinctions between herself and the character she plays begin to blur and merge.
The original Irma Vep starred Cheung as a fictionalised version of herself. It screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. The film helped introduced Cheung to a wider Western audience.
In a 2005 interview with The Irish Times, Cheung recalled how Assayas tracked her down and convinced her to star in Irma Vep over a drink. “I didn’t care what the film was about,” she said. “The offer was very tempting when you’re a kind of a lost soul. Someone saying: ‘Come to Paris for six weeks, you’re gonna work very differently with people who don’t know you.’ I had a really good time.”
She went on to marry Assayas but they divorced in 2001. They made another film together, 2004’s Clean, where she played a recovering junkie fighting the custody of her son. The role won her Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also her last leading role in a feature film.
Since then, Cheung, 56, has gone into semi-retirement. Perhaps Assayas can persuade his ex to give acting another shot in the new Irma Vep for old times’ sake.
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