Mace Neufeld and Robert Rehme — the twosome behind Paramount’s blockbusters “The Hunt for Red October” and “Patriot Games”– are actively developing a slate of films that they hope will seal their position as one of the hottest producing teams in Hollywood.

The duo, who signed a two-year exclusive deal with Par in 1989 and then extended it for another two years, are currently negotiating a new contract with Par. Their present contract expires in August.

The projects on Neufeld/Rehme’s development slate range from films based on best-selling novels — Tom Clancy’s “Clear and Present Danger” and Nelson DeMille’s “The General’s Daughter” among them — to numerous original screenplays, including “Twilight,” which will star James Woods, and “Dancin’ Cross the River,” slated to star Ted Danson.

In addition, “Midnight,” a project based on the best-selling novel by Dean Koontz, will be directed by Stuart Gordon (“Re-Animator”).

“If you look at the material we’re developing, you will see a very wide spectrum of projects,” Neufeld said. “Clearly one thing dominates the whole list , though, and that is we deal quite heavily in the literary world. We have quite a few major books.”

In fact, the partners–this year’s NATO/ShoWest Producers of the Year honorees–have more than a dozen projects based on novels in development.

“It’s a good base to work from,” said Neufeld, who is currently producing with Rehme “Beverly Hills Cop III.””It’s a special talent creatively to be able to turn a best-selling book into a hit movie, retaining the spirit and basic plot of a film, adapting it to a genre.

“It’s also a good promotion tool before the film opens,” he added, “which is very helpful in that all-important opening week of a film.”

Other than “Beverly Hills Cop III,” on which the producers replaced Joel Silver, Neufeld and Rehme prefer starting from scratch.

“Generally, we create everything that we produce,” Rehme said. “What we have learned is that you don’t give up on what you consider to be a good piece of material because eventually you’re going to get it made.”

Moving faster

Although Neufeld and Rehme have a discretionary fund that allows them to buy material Paramount turns down, Rehme said, “We’ve only used it a few times, actually, because we’ve got so much in development. The fund also allows us to move faster on certain material and jump over the approval system here.”

Operating with a development staff of seven, including executive VP Nick Grillo and New York-based consultant Howard Blum, the producers said they are “hands-on producers,” which gives them an advantage over some of their counterparts.

“Since the material originates with us and we’re involved with it all the way , we have more of an opportunity to make a good film. Other producers are more suppliers. We’re not that way.”

Asked about the budget ranges of their films in development, Neufeld said, “Unfortunately we’ve begun to be categorized as big action, big budget producers.”

“We have an appetite for a broad range of material, but strangely enough it’s easier for us to walk in with a $ 45 million budget than walking in saying we can do this film for $ 5 million,” Rehme added.

Before joinging forces in 1989, Neufeld and Rehme both had highly successful solo careers in the film industry. Neufeld’s credits include “The Omen,””The Frisco Kid” and “No Way Out.”

Rehme, currently president of the Motion Picture Academy, was prexy of Avco Embassy Pictures from 1979-81, then served as topper of the Universal Pictures Theatrical Motion Picture Group until he joined New World Entertainment as co-chairman and chief executive officer in 1984.

Next up for the duo is “Beverly Hills Cop III,” which, as previously reported , has had its production start date delayed (Daily Variety, Jan. 6). Originally slated to roll Feb. 1, the film will now go before the cameras sometime this spring.

Stephen De Souza is doing a rewrite on his script for the film, to be directed by John Landis.

Although no casting other than Murphy has been announced, Rehme said that there is a good chance that several characters from the two previous films, including those played by Judge Reinhold and John Astin, will be back.

“We’re writing the script with those characters in mind,” Rehme admitted, “and hopefully we’ll make a deal with them.”

“What we’re not attempting to do is a re-tread of the first two movies,” Neufeld said. “This movie has got to stand on its own, with the title being a bonus.”

Jack Ryan express

The other top-priority project on Neufeld-Rehme’s production slate is the third installment in the Jack Ryan thrillers, author Tom Clancy’s “Clear and Present Danger,” which will reunite “Patriot Game” stars Harrison Ford and Anne Archer and director Phillip Noyce. Budgeted in the mid-$ 40 million range, the film is scheduled to begin production next September.

“We’re thrilled to be able to put together the winning team from the last film,” Neufeld said. “We’re delighted that he wants to direct it. It was a team that made that picture and made this a hit series.”

As for Clancy’s reported remarks about threatening to never work with Paramount again if Noyce was hired to direct “Danger,” Neufeld said, “Tom Clancy will shoot his mouth off at every opportunity. I don’t know what he’s attempting to do. Clancy’s in some other world of his own.”

In addition to developing and producing material for their company, Neufeld and Rehme have also been working closely with Prelude Pictures, the company formed last September to develop stories and scripts by unproduced writers. Prelude was formed by independent producer Doug Curtis, who serves as the company’s president. In addition to Curtis, Prelude’s partners are Mike Ilitch Jr. and Mark Koch.

Although no specific projects have been announced, Curtis said that Prelude is currently working with five writers, who were among the 3,000 who submitted scripts to the company.

Prelude occupies offices on the Paramount lot and Curtis, Ilitch and Koch work closely with Neufeld/Rehme’s Grillo. Any films that make it into production at Par will be produced by Neufeld and Rehme. Curtis will co-produce/line produce and Ilitch and Koch will serve as executive producers.

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