October orders ‘Soldier’

October Films has acquired all North American rights to Merchant Ivory’s “A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries” starring Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Hershey.

The deal marks the first time that the Gotham-based specialized film company has distributed a pic from the team of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, whose five-year deal with the Walt Disney Co. recently expired.

Based on the novel by Kaylie Jones, “A Soldier’s Daughter” is the story of a young American woman growing up in Paris, where her father is a novelist haunted by memories of World War II.

Leelee Sobieski plays the daughter in the film, Kristofferson portrays the father and Hershey the mother.

Jones, the daughter of author James Jones (“From Here to Eternity,” “The Thin Red Line”), based her book on her own life.

Ivory is directing from a script he co-wrote with Jhabvala. Merchant is producer of the film, which is currently lensing in Paris and is scheduled to be released by October during the fall of 1998. Capitol Films is the foreign sales agent for “A Soldier’s Daughter.”

During a telephone interview, Ivory said he decided on October as his North American distributor after meeting with its partners Scott Greenstein and Bingham Ray during the Venice Film Festival. Greenstein and Ray were later joined in negotiating the deal by the third October partner John Schmidt. On the other side of the table were Merchant and Steven Dembitzer of Goldstein and Dembitzer.

Very impressed

“I have been very impressed with October’s relationship with British filmmaker Mike Leigh (‘Secrets & Lies,’ ‘Career Girls’),” Merchant said. “For us, it’s the passion that counts. We don’t have any illusions about ourselves. We’re not looking for pay-or-play deals.”

Earlier this year, Universal Pictures acquired a majority interest in October, giving it the wherewithal to step up its acquisitions activity and to spend more on marketing. Among the pics on its release sked are Robert Duvall’s “The Apostle,” Shane Meadows’ “TwentyFourSeven,” Trey Parker’s “Orgazmo” and the untitled project by “Welcome to the Dollhouse” helmer Todd Solondz.

It’s an honor

“It is an honor to be in business with such premiere filmmakers as Ismail and James whose company is renowned worldwide for consistently producing award-winning, high-quality and entertaining motion pictures,” said Schmidt.

Over the years, Merchant Ivory’s films have been released by Disney (“Feast of July,” “Jefferson in Paris”), Warner Bros. (“Surviving Picasso”), Columbia (“The Remains of the Day”), Sony Pictures Classics (“Howards End” and the restored films of Indian director Satyajit Ray) and the now-defunct Cinecom (“A Room With a View”).

“A Soldier’s Daughter” is the 40th film from Merchant Ivory, which was founded in 1961 and has garnered 31 Academy Award nominations. The team’s body of work has been chronicled in a new book, “The Films of Merchant Ivory,” written by Robert Emmet Long and published this month by Abrams.

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