McElwaine/Hayes up Creek

McElwaine/Hayes, the production company started by former ICM vice-chairman Guy McElwaine with his client Terry Hayes last July (Daily Variety, July 26), has entered into a multiyear deal with Morgan Creek Prods.

The deal is the first of its kind for Morgan Creek, which will fully finance the company’s development slate. McElwaine/Hayes also had talks about possibly setting up at MGM, where Michael Nathanson is now president.

McElwaine/Hayes is based at Morgan Creek on the Warner Bros. lot. The deal was announced by Morgan Creek chairman and CEO James G. Robinson and president and chief operating officer Gary Barber.

McElwaine/Hayes plans to produce five films over the next two years and is also developing TV projects.

On the feature film development slate is “Love in the Haystacks,” based on the D.H. Lawrence novel. Set in 1910 Australia, the story is said to be in the vein of “East of Eden.” In addition, the company recently acquired film rights to Neville Shute’s “A Town Like Alice,” which Hayes plans to adapt. The love story, set in Malaysia during World War II, is in the vein of “The English Patient.”

“Jim and I always got along in business,” said McElwaine. “He cuts right to the chase … One of the reasons we wanted to come here is because there is no bureaucracy. All I have to do is go downstairs and get an answer.”

Joining the company as VP of development is Michael Birnbach, who had been with ICM for the past 4-1/2 years, working with Mort Viner and then McElwaine. He will be in charge of finding new writers and developing material for both film and TV.

“Guy McElwaine and Terry Hayes think about films the way we do,” said Robinson in a statement. “They understand diversity and they demand quality.”

McElwaine has had a career as both agent and studio executive. He represented such talent as Steven Spielberg, John Travolta and Joe Eszterhas. During his stint as chairman and CEO of Columbia Pictures, the studio produced such films as “Ghostbusters,” “Karate Kid,” “Jagged Edge” and “Gandhi.”

Hayes, who is currently rewriting New Line’s “From Hell” for Albert and Allen Hughes, just completed writing “Fahrenheit 451” for Warner Bros. and Mel Gibson.

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