UA, Lucchesi in Quiller deal

United Artists keeps coming up with clever ways to jump-start the shingle. The studio has banded with producer Gary Lucchesi to acquire the series of Quiller mystery books by Adam Hall, the pseudonym of Elleston Trevor, who has cranked out about 18 of the books since 1966.

One of them was used for the 1966 secret-agent pic “The Quiller Memorandum.”

Jeff Kleeman, UA’s vice president of production, said the plan is for a series of affordable pix that UA hopes will build a dependable following, making up in intellect what it lacks in the special effects that are popular in the Bond series.

“It’s sort of the thinking man’s James Bond, and there are so many stories, we could put out one every 16 to 18 months,” said Kleeman. “To our knowledge no one isdoing this now, and it’s kind of like a throwback to what the studios used to do with franchises.”

Kleeman, Lucchesi and UA prexy John Calley envision taking an actor like Willem Dafoe — who hasn’t been approached, they caution — and turning him into an affordable franchise player.

“He brings the perfect combination,” Kleeman said. “He’s an action player, but you get the feeling he’s really intelligent and you hope the audience will take this guy to their heart — hopefully enough for him to come back 18 times.”

The Quiller difference

The difference that distinguishes the Quiller series from the Bond series is twofold. According to Kleeman, they’ll appear more quickly, and while Bond is about extravagance and spectacle, the Quiller series will be more dependent on clever plotting and strong storytelling.

Kleeman, a longtime fan of the mystery series, once worked for Lucchesi, and when Kleeman recently saw the books on his shelf, they hatched a deal.

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