NEW YORK – Morgan Freeman has become the newest star to go entrepreneurial and form his own production company. Freeman and producer Lori McCreary have formed Revelations Entertainment, with a revelation on a major new project that will reteam Freeman and “Seven” director David Fincher. They’ll adapt the 1973 Arthur C. Clarke (“2001: A Space Odyssey”) novel “Rendezvous With Rama.” The pic is set up at Propaganda Films, where Fincher has a first-look deal.
Freeman, who made his directing debut with the critically acclaimed “Bopha!,” also is zeroing in on a Revelations project he wouldn’t name but that he hopes will get him behind the camera later this year.
Although Freeman has been Oscar-nominated three times for films like “Driving Miss Daisy” and “The Shawshank Redemption,” he decided that being proactive is the best way to keep a steady supply of provocative, historical-based films like “Glory,” “Bopha!,” “Lean on Me” and “Unforgiven.”
“Having some degree of control is a key,” Freeman said. “Just being able to find stuff that you want to do, and develop it without having to go to someone and say, ‘Can I?’ It’s a big step and I’ve taken this long to be sure of what I wanted to do.”
The Revelations partners’ ambition goes beyond the standard star vanity housekeeping deal. “This will be a big ball that combines things from companies ranging from New Line, Castle Rock, Miramax and Merchant Ivory,” Freeman said. He added that the ability to raise production capital is a major goal.
Though “Rendezvous With Rama” is the first deal in place, the film will take two years to mount and likely won’t be the first Revelations film out of the gate. “It’s a book I read many years ago, an exciting story of an encounter with alien intelligence, held together by Clarke’s not allowing us to encounter the intelligence itself, only the evidence that it exists,” said Freeman.
He took the project to Fincher, who brought it to Propaganda CEO Steve Golin. Fincher just wrapped “The Game” with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn.
“I loved the idea of putting Morgan and Fincher together again,” Golin said. “We’re going to go and get a writer shortly.”
Though a fan of the Clarke book since it was first published, Freeman reined in his interest until he saw “Independence Day,” after which he gave the book to McCreary. “Morgan thought about it as a film for a long time, but there wasn’t the proper technology in place,” said McCreary, Revelations’ president and CEO. “But ‘ID4’ was all computer and proved there are no limits to what the imagination can come up with.” McCreary and Freeman first worked together on “Bopha!,” which she co-produced.
Freeman has no shortage of work on his own. He recently completed starring in Paramount’s adaptation of the James Patterson bestseller “Kiss the Girls,” as well as the Cloud Nine-produced Paramount film “The Flood,” in which he stars with Christian Slater. And he’s being wooed by Steven Spielberg to play a lead role in “Amistad,” the story of a slave ship mutiny which is exactly the kind of film he hopes will be a staple of his fledgling Revelations.
“There’s an absolute plethora of historical information and stories on American history that to my feeling are entertaining as well as educational,” Freeman said. “Before ‘Glory,’ nobody knew that story. Films like these make us see ourselves through different eyes. Intolerance is based on ignorance and can be overcome through education, and I’ve always felt that a most effective means of education is through television and films.” Freeman’s deals are made by Jason Sloane of Hansen Jacobson Teller & Hoberman, and William Morris’ Jeff Hunter and Leonard Hirshan.
QUENTIN’S NEXT RECLAMATION?: While it’s long been rumored that Quentin Tarantino would next direct his scripted adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s “Rum Punch” for Miramax, now Dish is hearing the guy who spearheaded John Travolta’s comeback by casting him in “Pulp Fiction” will make it his mission to restore the star luster of another performer: Pam Grier. Dish hears the former queen of blaxploitation films is in talks to star in “Rum Punch.”
PICK OF JOBS: While David Alan Grier took the job hosting “Saturday Night Live” this weekend, the former star of “In Living Color” has been more elusive on other opportunities. He was a contender to replace Greg Kinnear on the NBC chatshow “Later,” but pulled himself out of contention. He was offered a lead role in the Broadway musical “The Life,” but will likely not be able to take that job either.
That’s because he’s eyeing a primetime return in one of two projects. He could co-star in an untitled Fox drama starring Damon Wayans, with whom he worked on “In Living Color” and “Blankman,” or a Warner Bros. series that John Bowman is writing. He’s also got roles in the pics “McHale’s Navy” for Universal and the indie pic “Top of the World” with Dennis Hopper and Peter Weller. Grier’s repped by UTA and managed by Amy Howard.
DISHINGS: Several amendments to Tuesday’s Dish: John Romano wrote the pilot for David Caruso’s new series, with story by him and Nick Pileggi; the West Coast office of the new firm First Management is headed by Paulette Bartlett; and the third of the dueling pics on Aldrich Ames hasn’t been put in full turnaround by MGM. MGM’s TV division is trying to set up the project, based on the Ames book by Pete Earley, at HBO with producers Brad Weston, Gary Adelson and Bob Beitcher.