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Dogstar rises with full slate

Eleven months after signing his production deal with Disney and a year after shooting his last film, Brit helmer Mike Newell is edging slowly closer to his next directing gig while his new shingle Dogstar Films increases its development slate.

Last week, Disney bought Nick Hornby’s novel “High Fidelity” for Dogstar to develop and Newell to direct – the first big deal to originate from Dogstar’s London office.

Hornby received $125,000 against $375,000 for his comic tale about the thirtysomething owner of a failing second-hand record store in an unfashionable corner of North London, who finally learns to face up to adulthood when he’s dumped by his longtime girlfriend.

Dogstar is now seeking an American writer to transplant this story across the Atlantic. “This deal demonstrates what we want to do in the U.K.,” said Newell’s partner Alan Greenspan. “We’re taking an inherently British book, but putting an American twist on it.”

Newell’s deal with Disney commits him to direct two of his next four films for the studio. In return, Disney has given Dogstar a $1 million development fund and the right to greenlight one film with a budget of up to $12 million.

The first film Newell will direct for Disney is likely to be “Phenomenon,” starring John Travolta.

Another candidate for Newell’s next directing job is a Warner Bros. project based on A.S. Byatt’s novel “Possession,” which is being developed by Paula Weinstein at Spring Creek with Don McPherson scripting. It’s the parallel story of a 19th century love affair between two poets, and a 20th century love affair between two academics trying to unlock the secret of that relationship.

Meanwhile, Dogstar’s first production looks set to be “200 Cigarettes,” based on a screenplay by Shana Larsen. This $5 million project will be financed outside Disney.

Two other Dogstar pics for ’96 are “Photographing Fairies,” to be directed by Nick Willing, and “Ripley’s Game,” which Newell may helm. Greenspan hopes to put both through Disney.

“Ripley’s Game” will be a coproduction between Dogstar and Ileen Maisel. It is being adapted by Frank Deasey from Patricia Highsmith’s novel.

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