Huffington tries pic biz

CANNES — Ever wonder what happened to multimillionaire Michael Huffington after he failed in his quixotic and expensive bid to get himself elected as a California senator in 1994? Look no further than the Hotel du Cap. Huffington is here at the Cannes Film Festival in his new career as a film producer.

Huffington is partnered with Pierre de Lespinois, who describes himself as an “adventurer turned filmmaker.” De Lespinois used to work for NASA as an aquanaut, which once entailed him spending six months underwater. Now he specializes in Jacques Cousteau-style seafaring filming.

Their Santa Monica-based Crest Films is working with digital f/x house Pop Film and British sales company Capitol Films to develop a big-budget movie project provisionally titled “Dolphin Dreams,” which is scheduled for principal photography this summer.

It’s an effects extravaganza pitched as a kind of underwater “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Pop — which was heavily involved with “Independence Day” and “Volcano” — and Crest have been working on the computer-generated visuals for two years, and most of the effects are already in the can. Capitol, which boarded the project a year ago, even has a fully operational one-man submersible on display in its Cannes office.

Huffington, a lanky and affable Texan, confesses a lifelong passion for the movies. Films are his dream, and he’s rich enough (even after dropping a reputed $30 million on his senate election bid) to indulge it, although for the moment he’s relying on real estate dealing to keep him and his wife, Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington, in the luxury to which they are accustomed.

He’s keeping a low profile in the film biz — he politely declined an on-the-record interview with Daily Variety, expressing the desire to keep his head down until he has actually achieved something.

He recalled that during his senate election campaign, his high-profile wife made a passing reference to the fact that he had set up a production company without revealing its name or location. But, still, Crest received 20 new scripts in the next few days.

Huffington, whose money came from the family gas firm Ralf M. Huffington Inc., represented Santa Barbara, Calif., in the House of Representatives from 1993-95.

His hard-line Reaganite leanings and his self-financed, acrimonious race against incumbent Dianne Feinstein made him an instant political shooting star.

While the former Congressman has largely stayed out of view, his wife has been highly visible, with regular appearances on cable’s Comedy Central and a weekly radio program on KCRW-FM in Los Angeles.

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