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Davis ankling as Zuckers regroup

Keith Davis, vice president of development at Zucker Bros. Prods., will ankle the company at the end of the summer, a move viewed as a sign that David and Jerry Zucker are attempting to downsize their company.

The Zuckers have been unable to launch any of their own directing projects into production since making their widely publicized overall producing/directing deal at Sony Pictures two years ago. So now, sources indicate, the brothers have decided to focus more of their attention on studio-generated material and not rely exclusively on projects developed in-house.

No members of the Zucker camp, including David and Jerry, company president Gil Netter and Davis, were available to discuss the matter.

Davis joined the company in September ’91 to find and develop material for the Zuckers. Previously, he was a development executive at Steel Pictures.

Among the high-profile projects he has been involved with while there are Jerry Zucker’s stalled “First Knight” and David Zucker’s “Davy Crockett” film.

Another project developed during Davis’ tenure was “My Life,” which recently completed production and which marked the directorial debut of Bruce Joel Rubin, the screenwriter of “Ghost.” Rubin, Hunt Lowry and Jerry Zucker are the film’s producers.

When SPE inked its deal with the Zuckers in 1991, it expected the brothers to quickly turn out the kind of hit movies the duo had made while at Paramount, including “The Naked Gun” films, “Airplane!” and “Ghost.”

Their inability to do so has proven irksome to studio exex, who, according to studio insiders, quietly grumble that the Zuckers’ box office magic has failed to rub off on Columbia.

Jerry Zucker, whose last film was the 1990 hit “Ghost,” has been involved with “First Knight,” the King Arthur and Lancelot action-adventure story, for almost two years.

Although the $ 40 million film was in what Zucker referred to as “limited pre-production” in England earlier this year, the production shut down in April (Daily Variety, April 6) and the filmmakers returned to Los Angeles. Although at the time Zucker said the project would probably start eventually, several sources said the project will not get made.

Sources also said that Zucker is now focusing his attention on another project, the dramatic mystery “The Bystander,” for TriStar, which the director was developing prior to getting involved with “First Knight.”

Meanwhile, David Zucker has been developing his “Davy Crockett” film for almost two years. While various writers have worked on the script, including Dan Pyne and Zucker, sources said the script is nowhere near being ready to go.

Another project currently being developed in-house by the Zuckers is “The Unfinished Song,” the biography of Chilean folk singer/political activist Victor Jara, who was killed while imprisoned by the junta.

Ironically for Columbia, the next Zucker-connected project slated to go is Paramount’s “The Naked Gun 3: The Final Insult,” which was written by David Zucker and Pat Proft. It’s scheduled to roll next month with Peter Segal set to direct.

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