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PROD’N TRIO UNUSUAL SUSPECTS

Bryan Singer’s script of “The Usual Suspects” had been turned down all over Hollywood and New York by the time it fell into the hands of Robert Jones, Francois Duplat and Hans Brockman, a unique trio of European producers.

Two years later, the critical and commercial sizzle created by Singer’s film has made him the hottest new auteur in town. It also has established Jones, Duplat and Brockman – a Brit, a Frenchman and a German, working together under the banner Trinity – as a force to be reckoned with on the international production scene.

Trinity rose two years ago from the ashes of the German production and distribution company WMG, but is only now starting to take coherent shape. The three were involved in producing John Duigan’s “Sirens” and Chris Monger’s “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill…,” but “The Usual Suspects” was the first film over which Trinity had full financial and creative control.

That was followed by Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Sydney,” currently in post-production, the tale of a gambler and his protege starring Samuel Jackson and Gwyneth Paltrow that was financed by Rysher.

Not Trinity has half a dozen American and British projects which will be coming to the boil in the next year. First up is “The Serpent’s Kiss,” an $11 million slice of period passion to be directed by cinematographer Philippe Rousselot from Tim Rose Price’s script, which Trinity is producing in tandem with RPB Prods. J& M Entertainment, Trinity and John Boorman’s Merlin shingle will co-finance the film.

Hunting Baer

Trinity also is developing a long-term relationship with German producer Willi Baer. Their first project together is likely to be an adaptation of James Ellroy’s Hollywood crime novel “The Black Dahlia,” for which the rights currently are being negotiated.

London-based Jones describes Trinity as “a European co-production under one roof.” But in fact, the three of them aren’t even in the same city; Brockman is in Munich, Duplat travels between there and Paris, and they also have an office in Los Angeles.

Brockman and Duplat are veterans of the German and French film industries, working since the early ’70s with directors such as Luchino Visconti, Louis Malle, Roman Polanski and Federico Fellini. The considerably younger Jones, once a teenage rock musician with a Warner recording deal, started his film career as a buyer for British distrib Palace in the mid-’80s.

They first all came together at WMG, run by Brockman and Duplat, for which Jones worked as a freelance production exec while doubling as Polygram’s international acquisitions scout. When WMG’s shareholders fell out with each other two years ago, the trio created Trinity to take over the ongoing projects.

Since then, Jones has been setting the development pace, while Brockman and Duplat have been concentrating on winding down WMG.

As producers, the three of them work both together and separately – Duplat, for example, has a sideline in ballet and opera programming for French TV, while he and Brockman also control the French production company Nef – but everything comes under the corporate umbrella of Trinity.

Trinity’s focus almost is exclusively on English-language films. That, says Brockman, is a combination of commercial and creative pragmatism.

As a buyer, Jones demonstrated time and again a highly developed nose for new talent and cult hits. He was the exec who found “Shallow Grave” for Polygram.

In the know

His background in acquisitions across several territories helps him evaluate what makes an international hit. “I may be attracted to things creatively, but I don’t want to spend two years banging my head against a wall trying to sell something to someone like me on the other side of the table who’s giving me all the objections I would be giving in his place.”

This development list includes:

* ” The Boathouse,” written by Stephen Gallagher, a co-production with Sarah Curtis of Parallax Pictures. A supernatural, psychological thriller with a female lead.

* ” Savage Grace,” being developed with the American producer Christine Vachon and the Really Useful Group’s Toby Moorcroft. It’s the saga of the colorful family who invented Bakelite plastic, to be directed by Tom Kalin.

* ” Thirst,” a second project being developed with John Battsek’s RBP Prods. A thriller set in Arizona, written by Stephen Amidon.

* ” The Wisdom of Crocodiles,” being developed with Zenith Prods, from a script by Paul Hoffman about an otherworldly being living a seemingly normal human life.

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