Keaton, Goodman, Jones in TNT pic projects

With the bravado of a small indie, TNT’s made-for-cabler pic division announced its three newest star-driven projects Friday.

The three telefeatures are “Huey Long,” starring John Goodman as the redoubtable Louisiana governor; “Amelia Earhart,” starring Diane Keaton as the small-plane pilot whose attempt to circle the globe in 1937 remains shrouded in mystery; and “The Good Old Boys,” a turn-of-the century oater about the dying days of the cowboy world, starring and directed by Tommy Lee Jones.

Theatrical possible

Allen Sabinson, senior veep for original programming, said all three would be produced for TNT with domestic theatrical release a possibility. He added that overseas the pix might find a theatrical life because Turner distributes internationally for both TV and feature.

“What we’re trying to do is create long-term quality assets for Turner Broadcasting,” Sabinson said. “The idea is to create terrific films for TNT, films that help define us as a service.”

Life on the vid shelf

The pix will also gain viewers through Turner’s domestic and international homevid divisions. “That’s one of the reasons we like the stars,” Sabinson said. “They sell big videos. They appeal on a universal basis.”

“Earhart” is in production in L.A., Sabinson said. Rutger Hauer and Bruce Dern star alongside Keaton. Yves Simoneau is helming from Anna Sander’s script. Pic is produced by Avenue Pictures, which did Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts.”

“Huey Long” is still looking for a helmer. Paul Monash, who wrote HBO’s “Stalin,” scripted; Bob Christiansen and Rick Rosenberg are producing.

“The Good Old Boys” stars Jones in a script by him and J.T. Allen, who penned the high-rated TNT version of “Geronimo.” Salli Newman will produce.

All three are thought to carry budgets in the $ 5 million to $ 6 million range, nearly double the $ 3 million limit of most network made-fors.

Money no object

Sabinson said TNT was not afraid of spending money on made-for-cable pix. “We’re not deterred by locations or period,” he said. “As defined by Ted Turner, this original programming is to offer alternatives to what’s out there.”

The trio joins five more TNT releases headed to the small screen: “Cisco Kid, “”Heart of Darkness,””Abraham,””Gettysburg” and a retrospective, “Bette Davis: All About Bette.”

An animation special, “In Search of Dr. Seuss,” is slated for a December 1994 release on the cabler.

“The genius of the setup of this company is that it allows the ability to exhibit and distribute in a variety of media,” Sabinson said.

Sabinson said TNT would probably maintain its volume in 1994 with 12-14 original releases from TNT. He said that number would rise in 1995.

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