EXCLUSIVE: Louis Leterrier will direct Alex, an adaptation of the bestselling crime novel by French author Pierre Lemaitre. The script is being written by David Birke, who’s coming off the Paul Verhoeven-directed Elle, the drama that bought an Oscar nomination for Isabelle Huppert.

Alex launches Eclipse Pictures, a production, financing and sales company formed by Benedict Carver and Daniel Diamond. Straight Up Films’ Marisa Polvino and Kate Cohen, who acquired the novel rights, will produce with Carver and Diamond. Eclipse will fund development and production, and will handle worldwide sales.

The novel has franchise potential: It is the second of a book trilogy by Lemaitre known as The Commandant Camille Verhoeven Trilogy, with both Alex and its follow-up, Camille, winning the CWA International Dagger Award. Leterrier is eyeing a start late this year or early next. The novel follows French detective Camille Verhoeven as he pursues clues and suspects following the brutal kidnapping of a young woman, Alex Prévost, on the streets of Paris. He soon learns that Alex – beautiful, resourceful, and tough – is no ordinary victim. The novel’s set in Paris, but the film will be English-language and set in an international location.

Best known for helming the films Now You See Me and Transporter, Leterrier read the book after a friend recommended it, finished it in one sitting and searched out the rights that were controlled by James B Harris. “I’ve done big Hollywood action movies and comedies and this was not a genre I was looking for, but the tone is so interesting and it plays against the typical female protagonist trope,” Leterrier told Deadline. “It’s edgy and kinetic and it has taken me four years to get to this point. It could be the French Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but is also reminiscent of Chan-wook Park movies like Oldboy in the unexpected twists and turns. Benedict and Daniel will take it to Cannes, we’ll find the actor and actress and off we go. This is my passion project.”

Harris, Patrice Theroux and Tracey Bing will be the exec producers. Letterier’s repped by CAA, Management 360 and attorney Robert Offer; Birke, who most recently scripted the Sylvain White-directed Screen Gems thriller Slender Man, is with Paradigm, Madhouse and attorney Bruce Gelman. Attorneys Bob Wyman and Richard Rapkowski negotiated for Straight Up and Eclipse, respectively.