TriStar Pictures will pick up “Matilda,” based on the Roald Dahl children’s book, after producers Danny DeVito and Bregman/Baer Prods. parted ways because of budgetary concerns.
Pic was slated for release via Universal Pictures where Bregman/Baer has a deal. Now DeVito’s Jersey Films is setting up the project at TriStar for him to direct and star in with wife Rhea Perlman.
Project had a rocky road at U where DeVito reportedly wanted a budget of $42 million to lense the kids’ pic. Bregman/Baer, which was putting up about one-third of the budget, refused. U was expected to distribute and contribute some financing.
“We just came to a parting of the ways over the cost of the film,” Bregman said. “We’ve given him the option to go elsewhere with it. If he sets it up by April 1 and we see all of our money plus costs, then it’s his. If he doesn’t, then we’ll take it back and go with it.”
At TriStar, insiders said the pic will be budgeted somewhere around $27 million. But TriStar will fund the entire project.
Sources said DeVito’s budget was high because of the number of days he planned for the shoot. Jersey execs had no comment on why DeVito was willing to shave the reported budget for the pic at TriStar.
The story, about a precocious little girl who uses her magical powers to help her get away from mean parents, was adapted for the screen by Nicholas Kazan (“Reversal of Fortune”) and Robin Swicord (“Little Women”).
Mara Wilson, who had been attached pay-or-play at Universal, is in negotiations to play the little girl for TriStar.
Dan Cox, Anita M. Busch, Rex Weiner and Adam Dawtrey contributed to this report.