Michael Sauter
March 15, 1996 AT 05:00 AM EST

Hong Kong action movies are the latest blast. English actors have their usual Oscar contingent. But as the opening of The Birdcage reaffirms, Hollywood’s favorite foreign pipeline still runs straight back to France. Hardly a year goes by without at least one remake of a frothy French farce, from Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986) and Three Men and a Baby (1987) to last year’s Nine Months. Now in preproduction is Father’s Day, based on 1984’s Les Comperes, which will star Robin Williams and Billy Crystal as two guys who help their mutual ex-girlfriend locate her runaway son, each believing he’s the boy’s father.

”Success breeds imitation,” says Father’s Day director Ivan Reitman (Junior). ”The French, more than anyone else, have been good at creating character-based comedies that can be Americanized.”

Thrillers aren’t lost in translation either, as those little adaptations Point of No Return (1993) and True Lies (1994) showed. This month we’ll see an oft-adapted property updated again when Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani star as one man’s murderous mistress and wife in Diabolique. A French movie star in an American remake? Director Jeremiah Chechik says he needed ”an actress who wouldn’t be blown off the screen by Sharon Stone,” and that though the public doesn’t know Adjani, they will. She leads a small cadre of French actresses flirting with Hollywood: Emmanuelle Beart kisses Tom Cruise this summer in Mission: Impossible. Braveheart‘s Sophie Marceau might star in Mel Gibson’s Anna Karenina.

Directors are crossing over too. Jodie Foster is in talks with Hate whiz kid Mathieu Kassovitz, while The Professional‘s Luc Besson snagged Bruce Willis for The Fifth Element. And perhaps the boldest move comes from Disney, which simply dubbed the comedy Un Indien Dans la Ville and is releasing it next week as Little Indian, Big City.

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