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Capitol in the catbird seat

With its recent deals to co-finance “The secret Agent” and “American Buffalo,” Capitol Films has confirmed its arrival in that select group of London-based sales agent who make big films happen.

The company was founded five years ago by Jane Barclay and Sharon Harel, but it wasn’t until last year’s “Death and the Maiden,” directed by Roman Polanski, that it really made it’s break through into the big time.

When ICM approached Capitol with the Polanski project late in 1993, it was in turnaround at Warner and had been nixed everywhere else in hollywood. Capitol slashed the inflated $20 million budget by a third, executed some fancy footwork on deferments for the talent and committed to fully financed the pic without a U.S. partner.0 fine line subsequently stopped up for the American rights.

Capital has since helped finance four star-laden projects and experts to add two or three more by the end of this year, to go with the handful of completed pix the company picks up for international sale.

“Agent,” written and helmed by Christopher Hampton is a co-production with fox searchlight, which is releasing the pic in North America and all other English-speaking territories. Capitol is handling the rest of the world.

Based on Joseph Conrad’s novel about the anarchist sub-culture in late 19th century London, it stars Bob Haskins, Gerard Depardieu and Patricia Arquette, with a budget in the $10 million range. Shooting starts July 3.

“American Buffalo”, based on the David Mamet play, is a co-production with the Samuel Goldwyn Co., starring Dustin Hoffman and Directed by Michael Corrente. Once again, Capitol put up about half the financing in return for international rights.

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