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New Blake company to back ‘Stair’

Writer Michael Blake and director William Morgan rolled out screenplay plans Tuesday for a Western murder mystery and their new indie film company.

Blake, who won an Oscar for penning “Dances With Wolves,” said the pair’s first project will be a $10 million to $15 million pic developed from the novel “Winding Stair,” a courtroom thriller that takes place on an Indian reservation in the Southwest circa the 1890s. Blake and Morgan bought rights to the 1981 Douglas C. Jones book last week.

The plan is for their Beverly Hills-based Last Stand Pictures Inc. to produce three to five pics a year, said Blake, who describes himself as a longtime “whining writer.”

“It seemed like the right time to take this kind of initiative,” Blake told Daily Variety. “We felt this was an opportunity to move writing, if not into the driver’s seat, at least from the back of the bus up a few rows.” He said that the company also has four original pre-written projects in the queue.

“We don’t want to make art films for our friends and cousins; on the other hand we’re not looking to make huge-budget mega-event films either,” said Morgan, who co-wrote Kevin Costner’s “500 Nations,” in a prepared statement. “We’re aiming for stories that are edgy and unique and original, but with traditional entertainment values as well.”

In the next couple of months Blake expects to complete the screenplay adaptation of “Winding Stair,” which is partially based on true events. Blake will direct and Morgan will produce.

Meanwhile, Blake said the company will work on development, including attaching stars and a distributor. He has staked out a location for “Winding Stair” on the Oklahoma-Arkansas border and expects lensing to begin as early as this fall.

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