KONCHALOVSKY’S BEST LAID PLANS

Nobody said it’s easy to get films made in Europe, but Andrei Konchalovsky seems to be having more trouble than most, and through no fault of his own. If all goes well, Konchalovsky could find himself lensing two pics in 1996. Alternatively, he could be doing zippo.

The Russian-born helmer is currently developing the $10 million English-lingo thriller “Moscow Chill” with co-production partners Lumiere, Germany’s Schlemmer Film and Way Brand Ltd. Paris-based Lumiere would like to tap into French public co-production funding if possible, but such a move is proving difficult. Lumiere wants to make use of the financial co-production agreement that allows certain countries to co-produce non-French-lingo pics without being bound by artistic input restrictions.

One option would have been to co-produce with a U.K.-based partner. Unfortunately, financial co-productions between France and the U.K. are basically blocked at the moment because of the countries’ differing media policies with the EU. Undeterred, the co-production partners recently toyed with the idea of setting up an Irish-based shell company for the project, until it was pointed out to them that there is no financial co-production agreement between Dublin and Paris. As shooting has been targetted for early next year, finding a way to unlock the French francs is becoming an increasingly urgent task.

Watching the affair with interest is L.A.-based French producer Philippe Diaz. At the Cannes Film Festival in 1994, Diaz took several costly trade ads announcing that Konchalovsky would start shooting “The Royal Way” in Vietnam the following September. The month in question came and went, twice, and still nothing has been seen of the reportedly $18 million project. Those who have perused the script, an adaptation of the Andre Malraux novel, penned by Konchalovsky and Larry Gross, say it is a gem.

Just why the project has proven so difficult to get off the ground is a matter of some debate. Speaking to Variety recently, Konchalovsky insisted he would still love to make the film, but that the original shoot was canceled because Vietnam’s rainy season prevented a September start.

Last week, Diaz suggested that delays were partly due to the fact that prospective star Matt Dillon wasn’t 100% keen on the script and eventually dropped out of the pic. Having sold a project with the thesp attached, Diaz apparently had to go back to international distribs to renegotiate. (Diaz reported that Miramax still has the project for domestic.)

Less charitable voices have questioned whether Diaz actually had the cash he needed for the project. Informed sources say Konchalovsky brought around $1.2 million from Russia to help finance development and that (in theory) he will be repaid by Diaz if the pic is never made.

Diaz refused to comment on this part of the deal, insisting he is bound by a confidentiality clause, but he did intimate that all the cash was not in place last year. Diaz also rejected suggestions that he had difficulty paying his electric bills over the summer.

Now he says the financing for “The Royal Way” is complete, and that he expects to announce the backers within two or three weeks. “In Europe, the partners are Helkon Media of Germany, Kanzaman of Spain and my own Sceneries Europe from France.”

All that remains to be done for the pic to have a shot at either a March or an October start (the best windows in Vietnam’s rainy season) is for Diaz to provide Konchalovsky with written proof that the financing is in place.

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