TriStar Pictures–consigned to oblivion by some Hollywood observers–flexed its muscles yesterday, confirming its 1993 slate and outlining an impressive development roster. It includes director/star Barbra Streisand’s “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” screenwriter Richard L. Friedenberg’s “The Music Room” and the screen adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s “Get Shorty,” which has director Barry Sonnenfeld and star Danny De Vito attached.
On the go picture side, all is status quo except Interscope Communication’s “One of the Girls,” which is skedded for production by June. The project is reportedly under consideration for star Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In a major signing, TriStar disclosed that Sir Richard Attenborough has been attached as director of “Les Miserables,” based on the hit musical. It shapes up as Attenborough’s directorial follow-up to Savoy Pictures’ upcoming “Shadowlands.” Medavoy said the TriStar movie will draw on Victor Hugo’s novel to augment the cinematic potential of the project.
Orchestrated by studio chairman Mike Medavoy, TriStar’s slate shapes up as a body blow to Hollywood’s naysayers. For the last 12 months, pundits have speculated that the 52-year-old Medavoy–a 19-year veteran of the studio system–was on the ropes.
In fact, TriStar and Medavoy were buffeted by domestic theatrical expectations for “Hook,” the discontent of “Bugsy” producer Warren Beatty and director Barry Levinson, changes in the studio’s creative team and the studio’s decline from 10.9% of the domestic box office in 1991 to 6.6% in 1992. But TriStar appears to be turning the corner.
No. 2 with a bullet
One of Hollywood’s most political people, Medavoy timed the slate to coincide with the surprising performance of “Sniper,” which checked in at the No. 2 position at the box office last weekend. In addition, the studio is prepping marketing blitzes for its Memorial Day release “Cliffhanger” and the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan starrer “Sleepless in Seattle.”
It was Medavoy’s first public disclosure of TriStar’s slate since 1990, when he outlined a slate that included “Hook,””Bugsy,””The Fisher King,””Terminator 2 : Judgment Day” and David Lean’s “Nostromo”– an epic project that ended with the legendary filmmaker’s death.
Medavoy, in speaking about his confidence in the studio’s current prospects, alluded to his United Artists slate of 1975. At that time, the studio executive announced the greenlight on seven movies at once. Among them were “Apocalypse Now,””Carrie,””The Pink Panther Strikes Again,””Network” and “Rocky.”
TriStar’s current creative agenda carries the fingerprints of company president Marc Platt and president of production Stacey Lassally, who came aboard last February.
Picking up speed
Medavoy acknowledged a “lag time” as the studio’s new creative team settled in to its new surrounding, but maintained that the studio was ready to duke it out in 1993. “We’re ramping up,” he said.
Platt said the support TriStar’s new production team received from Medavoy and Sony Pictures Entertainment allowed the department “to make the right decisions and take the time to nurture projects.”
TriStar’s slate pointed up the evolution of the studio’s production team from an emphasis on “dealmaking” to in-house development.
Such coming movies as “Frankenstein,””Mary Reilly” (initiated at Guber Peters Entertainment Co.), and “Philadelphia” (initiated under Platt at Orion Pictures) were honed in-house, and fewer agency packages have arrived over the transom in recent months.
Beyond Platt and Lassally, the nucleus of TriStar’s production team includes senior veepees Chris Lee, Michael Besman, Jonathan Darby, veepee of production Kevin Misher, veepee of development Amy Bosley and story editor Mike Karz.
Pump it up
In turning up the creative pitch, TriStar trumpeted plans for several projects, including the long-awaited full-length animated feature “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” based on the Dr. Seuss best-seller. Pic is alive with directors Jim George and Bob Seeley and producer Roland Joffe aboard.
One of the studio’s most culturally relevant pics is the adaptation of National Book Award winner “The Middle Passage,” an epic drama about a freed slave’s moral dilemma when he stows away on a slave boat. Reginald and Warrington Hudlin are slated to produce, with novelist Charles Johnson penning the screenplay.
“Ota Benga”– the story of a Pygmy brought to America as a sideshow exhibit — shows the studio’s eclectic nature. It is being adapted by Tony Award-winning playwright George C. Wolfe (“Jelly’s Last Jam,””The Colored Museum”). Producers are Denzel Washington, Debra Martin Chase, Wolfe and Robert Riesenberg.
In addition, TriStar expects “Reservoir Dogs” director Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay “Pulp Fiction” to be delivered shortly as one of its projects earmarked for preproduction within 14 months.
The company is also adapting the thriller “The Surprise Party,” which has screenwriter James Dearden and director Wolfgang Petersen attached. The studio is excited about screenwriter Mark Medoff’s “Hostage.” The project is on the fast track.
Another thriller is director Costa Gavras’ “Sycamore Drive,” which is about a woman reporter who falls in with a story subject–a man accused of murdering his family. Dearden is skedded to deliver a draft next month.
“Glory” director Ed Zwick has been inked for “Legends of the Fall,” currently being prepped by “thirtysomething” writer Susan Shilliday. Lassally described the project as a moving World War I drama about two brothers.
‘Robo’ reunion in ‘Starship’
One of TriStar’s most promising commercial vehicles is director Paul Verhoeven’s “Starship Troopers,” which reunites the writing and production team behind Orion Pictures’ $ 53.5 million winner “Robocop.”
Medavoy said, “I know Paul is really excited by this, and I think that if it is not his next movie, it will be the one after that.”
The studio also expressed high hopes for director Steven Spielberg’s “Zorro, “”Time Flies” with Alvin Sargent penning the screenplay, the Americanized version of “Godzilla,” Dean Koontz’s “Dragon Tears” and “Hideaway,” and producer Laura Ziskin’s “Cartooned.” Screenwriter Joel Gross’ rewrite of “Zorro” is anticipated in mid-March.
Strategically, TriStar heralded its relationships with first-tier producers. The studio recently has inked deals with such players as Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington, the Pleskow-Spikings Partnership, Daniel Melnick’s IndieProd Prods. and Robin Williams’ Blue Wolf Prods.
Each of the heavy hitters will be relied on to develop product and lure talent to TriStar, with “Addams Family” producer Rudin skedded to move from Paramount to TriStar in August.
“I’ve had long and successful relationships with the senior management at that company and am looking forward to reinvigorating my relationships with them ,” Rudin said.