Coppola to produce ‘Don Juan’

Francis Ford Coppola will produce New Line’s “Don Juan DeMarco and the Centerfold,” reteaming him with Marlon Brando for the first timesince Coppola helmed “Apocalypse Now” in 1979.

Brando — who also took direction from Coppola in “The Godfather”– will play a psychiatrist in midlife crisis who’s charged with evaluating a young patient — played by Johnny Depp — who believes he’s Don Juan, the world’s greatest lover.

The presence of Coppola and Zoetrope Prods. partner Fred Fuchs should ease the pressure on Jeremy Leven, who wrote the script and is making his directing debut with the unpredictable Brando.

“When (NL exec veep of acquisitions) Ruth Vitale got the script, we felt that if we were going to have a first-time director, it would be great to back him up with a really strong producer,” said New Line president Michael De Luca. “We came up with Zoetrope and after Francis and Fred met with Jeremy, we felt they would be able to supply a level of comfort and support for him.”

Fuchs said he and Coppola — who was out of the country and unavailable to comment — joined the project because they liked the script, and that despite Coppola’s past collaborations with Brando, it was Depp who thought of bringing the reclusive actor into the fold.

Step up

“We all wanted Johnny for the role of Don Juan, and he gave us the idea to consider Marlon,” Fuchs said. “This is a major creative step up for New Line, and casting Marlon is a daring, challenging thing for them to do.

“I’m not worried about Marlon at all. He’s been extremely professional and committed to the movie. In the past, he did some movies for the money, but the man found this project clearly compelling and artistically challenging.”

Fuchs said that Coppola doesn’t plan to direct again until next year and will be ready to help during production and post-production.

Remarkable ‘Juan’

“Don Juan” is a remarkable break for Leven, a 53-year-old ex-psychiatrist who wouldn’t let the script out of his hands unless he was permitted to direct it.

Leven, who scripted the 1985 Peter O’Toole starrer “Creator,” wrote “Don Juan” several years ago, when his ICM agent was Richard Saperstein, now exec VP at New Line. Leven’s pay-and-play deal was closed by ICM and attorney Steve Warren, partner at Hansen Jacobson Teller & Hoberman.

The film is expected to begin shooting in May, and will be shopped at the upcoming American Film Market by Rolf Mittweg, president of New Line Intl.

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