Lewis tale ties Savoy, Spelling

Savoy Pictures and Spelling International have joined to finance screenwriter William Nicholson’s “Shadowlands,” which will go into production in April under the aegis of director Sir Richard Attenborough, sources confirmed Friday.

To be produced by Brian Eastman and Attenborough, “Shadowlands” will be a presentation of Price Entertainment–the development and production company headed by former Columbia and Universal Pictures chairman Frank Price.

Earlier seen as a BBC telepic and on the London and Broadway stage, “Shadowlands” tells the love story of British author C.S. Lewis and the younger, divorced Yankee poet Joy Davidman (named Joy Gresham in the movie version).

Oxford bachelor Lewis came to love and marry Davidman a little too late, just before she died of cancer in 1960.

To be shot at Oxford, the movie is planned to advantage of the background and customs of the university more than Nicholson’s stage version did.

Attenborough’s project has drawn significant jockeying and attention from top Hollywood talent. Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine and Sean Connery are prime candidates to play the Lewis character, while Sally Field, Meryl Streep and Debra Winger are under consideration for the female lead.

Final casting decisions are expected by late December.

Nigel Hawthorne and Jane Alexander starred in “Shadowlands” on Broadway in 1990.

Produced by Eastman on the stage, “Shadowlands” was acquired by Columbia Pictures during former chairman Frank Price’s most-recent tenure at the studio. Current Colpix management placed the project in turnaround earlier this year, reverting movie rights back to Eastman.

Eastman attracted Attenborough’s interest and brought Price’s development and production shingle into the loop.

The pic marks the third teaming for Price and Attenborough, following “Gandhi” and “Cry Freedom.”

“Shadowlands” marks Savoy Pictures’ president of motion pictures Alan Greisman’s first major deal since taking the reins of the company’s movie operations (Daily Variety, July 28). Greisman is the husband of starring candidate Sally Field.

Price’s involvement and Attenborough’s interest helped sell the project to Savoy, which is the distribution start-up headed by Victor Kaufman and Lewis Korman. Under terms of the deal, Savoy will handle domestic distribution, while L.A.-based Spelling will distribute the pic internationally.

Savoy is building a debut schedule of four movies for late 1993 release. As previously reported, Savoy has already closed a deal to distribute Robert De Niro’s directorial effort “A Bronx Tale” in the United States and Canada. The company has a war chest of $ 160 million to support its effort to break into the distribution business.

Rounding out its current plans, Savoy is also reportedly finalizing its deal for screenwriter/director John Milius’ 1875 western tale “The Texas Rangers”–an intensely structured coming-of-age story about the first group of Lone Star lawmen. Price is an investor in Savoy and is involved in “The Texas Rangers” production.

Spelling Entertainment Inc. executive VP and chief operating officer Ron Lightstone and Spelling International senior veepee of sales Dawn Handler helped pull the transaction together, sources confirmed.

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