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Byrne, prod’n company cobble three-pic slate

Gabriel Byrne, the Irish thesp who exec produced the incendiary legal drama “In the Name of the Father,” is putting together a three-pic feature slate to be set up at his Dublin-based indie production outfit Mirabilis Films.

Miramax Films, with whose principals Byrne has a close professional rapport, will play exclusive backup on the worldwide distrib side of what Byrne calls “medium budget movies” in the $ 8 million-$ 10 million range.

A likely first in front of cameras is the screen adaptation of “Dr. Haggard’s Disease,” from a novel by up-and-coming Irish author Patrick McGrath.

Starring Byrne, “Disease” is a romantic love story set in London in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II. Byrne, who also will produce, tags it as “an obsessive love affair between a doctor and a woman he happens to meet … your basic sex-and-death story under the (Nazi) buzz bombs of London.”

Shooting in England

Mirabilis, which Byrne recently established with producer Patrick Rainsford, hopes to be shooting somewhere in England this fall. Additional casting has not yet been announced, but Byrne said talks are heating up and “we know who we want.” Rainsford will co-produce “Disease.”

A second Mirabilis Films project will be based on Byrne’s own script, “The Lark, ” which isset in Dublin in 1962. Using devices like magical realism and fantasy, as in recent Byrne starrer “Into the West,” the story is about a boy who averts a missile crisis and World War III with the aid of a magician.

On a ‘Lark’

Byrne said “Lark” also has elements in it similar to “Amazing Grace and Chuck ,” where “the line between fantasy and reality is very thin, not outlandishly fantastic, and possibly real — which is the way I like to think of things.”

Byrne added that Mirabilis will not get funding from Miramax or anyone else in Hollywood, because “we like to retain our independence.”

The only Byrne-backed title not under the Mirabilis banner so far is “The Driftwood Tree,” a script written by 22-year-old Irish neophyte writer Richard Dormer.

Ancient fable

“Tree” is the updated film version of an ancient fable set on an island off the coast of Ireland and will be partially funded by the Irish Film Board. Byrne will produce “Tree” with Thomas Hardiman.

Though he’s enjoying the success of “In the Name of the Father,” Byrne said he went through a few twists and turns to take the story to the screen.

“‘Father’ began by coincidence,” Byrne explained. “I read Gerry Conlon’s book ‘Proved Innocent’ in an airport newsstand and then went to Conlon and asked him if he would give me the rights to the book, which he did.”

But the thesp said he encountered a knee-jerk reaction in the entertainment community.

“People told me ‘Father’ was not a movie,” Byrne said. “But my inner voice told me it was. And now, as the film has been shown in the U.S., people are saying, ‘Hey, maybe our justice system is not what it’s cranked up to be.’ We (Irish filmmakers) are now able to tell our story.”

Finishing ‘Fate’

Byrne just finished “Twist of Fate” with Steve Martin for Touchstone, which is a Matilda Films production with Rick Kidney producing. The pic also stars Stephen Baldwin and Catherine O’Hara. Byrne also wrapped the recently shot “Trial by Jury” for Warner Bros. and Morgan Creek.

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