LOS ANGELES — Passion, betrayal and two beautiful co-stars — would you expect anything else from a smash hit from France? Whether Yann Samuell’s feature film debut, “Love Me If You Dare,” a visually rich tale of obsessive love that opened here Friday, translates to this side of the Atlantic is another question entirely.

Nevertheless, Hollywood has already welcomed the 38-year-old writer-director with open arms. “In America I’ve received 40 scripts,” says Samuell, who lives with his wife and four children in Chartres, France, an hour west of Paris. “Many are dreadful, but there have been many beautiful offers.” Ironically, he hasn’t received a single offer in his native country.

This story first appeared in the May 25, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

That may be because Samuell was determined to make “Love Me If You Dare” his way or not at all. After working for 10 years as an illustrator, he spent three years writing the script and looking for financing. “I made story boards and paintings of the sets and costumes so everyone would know exactly what it would look like,” Samuell says of the film’s fantastical cinematography.

Casting the film had its own share of drama. “I felt like I was giving my baby up for adoption, so I had to have complete trust in my actors,” he says. He plucked Guillaume Canet (best known to American audiences from the Leonardo DiCaprio flick “The Beach”) and French girl-of-the-moment Marion Cotillard to be his star-crossed lovers.

Samuell says he is considering relocating to the U.S., and his next project could warrant that move. He is planning to adapt and direct an American novel dear to his heart which he refuses to name. “The author says he’s gotten many requests to adapt the book, but I am the first director he has said yes to in 25 years,” says Samuell.

Though the book’s title remains a mystery, it’s probably safe to assume that it’s a tale with an upbeat ending. “I feel like I have a duty to bring happiness or hope to an audience, because movies cost so much money to make and there are people starving in the world,” he says. “Maybe in a few years I’ll be corrupted, but not yet.”

— Marcy Medina

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