Deal makes a player out of Robbins

Tim Robbins has inked a unique semi-exclusive three-year deal with London-based production company Working Title Films and its parent company Polygram Filmed Entertainment.

“It’s exclusive for material he owns or controls,” says Los Angeles-based Polygram prexy Michael Kuhn, adding: “Tim has creative control.”

Via his new Chaos Prods., Robbins will develop, write, produce, direct and/or star in pix he chooses for Working Title, which will provide the financing, according to the company’s co-chairman Eric Fellner.

The deal is non-exclusive, meaning Robbins can also star in other directors’ pix.

Robbins’ deal was cut by Working Title’s Fellner, his co-chair Tim Bevan and the actor’s ICM agents Elaine Goldsmith, Bart Walker and Jeff Berg.

Deal calls for a minimum of two films, with the first budgeted at $ 8 million-$ 12 million and the second at $ 15 million-$ 20 million. There’s no cap.

Budget increase is a nice jump from the $ 3.8 million Robbins had for his directorial debut, “Bob Roberts,” which he also wrote andstarred in for Working Title. Relationship was further cemented with Robbins’ role in upcoming $ 28 million “The Hudsucker Proxy,” a production between Silver Pictures and Working Title for Warner Bros.

Polygram will retain all of the rights under the new deal, Fellner said from his London-based office. Polygram subsid “Manifesto will sell the foreign rights territory-by-territory. Polygram will distribute directly in France and the U.K. , and in the U.S. they will go through (Polygram subsid) Gramercy Pictures.”

If a pic warrants more than a 1,000-print release — Gramercy’s cap — it will be done on a “rent-a-studio” basis, Kuhn said. From the set of Castle Rock’s “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” in Ohio, actor Robbins said he would like the first pic to be based on a script he’s writing now. However, he won’t limit himself to that. He said he’s pleased with a deal that gives him such autonomy.

What sold Robbins on Polygram instead of a studio deal was “the feeling that I got from Michael Kuhn that he wasn’t interested in setting up a vanity deal. I don’t think there’s any reason to do this unless both parties are completely intent on actual production happening.”

Robbins, known for his roles in “The Player,””Bull Durham” and “Jacob’s Ladder,” said he is committed to two pictures and possibly more. He is also artistic director of L.A. theater troupe the Actors Gang, which will launch five plays this year. He said he may not have time to do more than two pictures, even if the funds and support are available.

“I don’t want to get in a situation where I have no time for my family or my wife (actress Susan Sarandon). Idealistically, I’d like to do a lot. Practically , I’m not sure that’s possible.”

As for creative control, “The greenlighting process will be the same as applies to all our labels,” Kuhn said. “That is not Kuhn saying ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but the project meeting certain financial criteria which we lay down.”

The projected income of each picture has to be a minimum of 10% above projected costs, “which is as near self-greenlighting as you can get in today’s world,” Kuhn said.

The performance of Robbins’ “Bob Roberts” fit the formula, since the $ 3.8 million pic grossed $ 4.7 million at the domestic B.O., a figure that doesn’t include foreign, homevid or TV sales.

Robbins is now one of the two hyphenates in Polygram’s stable. The company has another deal with Jodie Foster and her Egg Pictures, a different deal tailored for her (Daily Variety, Oct. 21, 1992).

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