Foster, Egg hatch deal at Polygram

Jodie Foster and her Egg Pictures have hatched a three-year production pact with Polygram Filmed Entertainment for an undisclosed amount.

Word of the actress/director’s “unique”arrangement surfaced yesterday, the same day Orion Pictures, her former haunt and home of her directorial debut, was given the nod to emerge from bankruptcy.

Quelling her elation briefly over her latest deal to reflect on Orion, Foster recounted: “I did my last three movies with (Orion),” including “The Silence of the Lambs,” for which she won an Oscar for best actress, and “Little Man Tate,” her induction to directing.

“To tell you the truth, (the hearing yesterday) was anticlimactic when you consider what everyone (associated) with the studio has been through. It was such a unique place … a place where you really felt you were always working with true filmmakers,” Foster said.

But her focus now is on the Polygram deal, which she believes gives her “more control over my own destiny.”

Excluded from the Polygram arrangement are five projects she is producing elsewhere, including the Jean Seberg pic she is co-producing with Carol Polakoff and Hexagon Films.

Cringing at any implication of a vanity vehicle, Foster was quick to stress that her Polygram pact “is a filmmaker’s deal … not an exclusive actor’s deal. The strategy is to build something of quality, to go back to more of a grassroots approach.”

Foster said that “With Polygram, I think our styles mesh and here are the reasons why. I have been terribly conservative, I feel, in the choices I have made in my career. With Polygram, I’m not interested in going out there and promising them I’m making 30 development deals.

“I want signature films. And the costs will be appropriate to what the picture is. I’ve always been driven by material, not price,” she said.

Polygram Filmed Entertainment president Michael Kuhn said, “I’m relying on vibes.

“Jodie was pretty determined to strike out on her own and she’s got a good commercial head on her shoulders. Her track record’s tough to match,” he said.

“She’s made 30 films and she’s only 30 years old and that includes directing as well as acting, not to mention the Oscars.”

Kuhn is the first to say he normally looks askance at first-look indie production deals with talent. “If you look around at all of the studio lots, there’s a lot of money thrown at these independent producers which goes into paying huge overhead and by the end of the day there’s nothing left to make movies.

“But in Jodie’s case, we structured it differently,” he said.

Basically, Polygram set up two pots of money for Foster to draw from: One to cover overhead, the other to help finance her pictures.

Under terms of the deal, Foster greenlights all of her own pictures. What she presents to Polygram is a breakdown on cost estimates and projected revenues for both the United States and abroad, he said.

In that sense, Foster’s deal mirrors agreements Polygram has with Ted Field’s Interscope Films and the other Polygram subsidiaries, Propaganda, A&M Films and Working Title.

“Jodie came to us with a plan we thought was reasonable. What she was looking for was the most autonomy she could reasonably expect,” Kuhn said. “We will back her creative judgment. But we also lay down our rules and when the project meets those objectives it’s a go. It’s not necessarily so generous … rather a matter of recognizing the realities of today’s environment.”

Kuhn emphasized, as in other agreements, “We have safeguarded our investment. In every case, we are bonded.”

While declining particulars, Kuhn said, “She’s told us what she wants to do next year and we gave her enough money to satisfy that. Basically, she’s exclusive to us on projects she controls. But if she doesn’t control, she’s free to do whatever she wants. If she finds she needs more, she is welcome to bring in a partner.”

But Kuhn cautions the Foster and Field deals are not necessarily a signal that Polygram is shaping itself to become the next Orion.

In fact, Kuhn says the latest pact is the last for a while.

“Everyone is expecting us to bed down now and start producing some movies,” he said.

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