Tribeca sets pic pair at MGM

NEW YORK — Tribeca Prods., the partnership between Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, has formalized a first-look deal at MGM, where it has set two new projects.

The production deal grew out of a De Niro commitment to topline the John Frankenheimer ensemble drama “Ronin” at United Artists.

It puts the studio in prime position to get another De Niro vehicle, as Tribeca has made an MGM deal to develop “Trick Monkey,” a film based on the illusionist exploits of up-and-coming magician David Blaine, with De Niro and his “This Boy’s Life” co-star Leonardo DiCaprio attached.

It’s a kind of father-son scenario that’s not nearly as dysfunctional as the one in that earlier film. De Niro would play a magician, DiCaprio his apprentice. Jim Uhls (“Dead Reckoning”) is scripting.

At United Artists, Tribeca set up “The Maid of Buttermeer,” Raymond Khouri’s adaptation of the Melvyn Bragg book that’s a fact-based love story set in early 1800s England.

The title character is essentially history’s first supermodel, a woman who works in a tavern and is so beautiful that men travel from afar just to glimpse her. A con man falls in love with her and poses as a gentleman to woo her, with dire consequences when she figures out who he really is.

De Niro, Rosenthal, Simon Oakes and Tribeca production president Brad Epstein will produce. Book sale was brokered by CAA’s Bob Bookman.

At the same time, numerous projects Tribeca hatched before the MGM/UA deal are coming to fruition. With NBC, Tribeca is near a deal with “NYPD Blue” star Nicholas Turturro to play Sammy (The Bull) Gravano in a four-hour miniseries that was written by Stanley Weiser (“Wall Street”) from John Miller’s WNBC news reporting and other sources. Thaddeus O’Sullivan is directing, with the hope of having the mini on-air for May sweeps.

Rosenthal confirmed they were close to signing Turturro. Despite his youth, Rosenthal said, “He’s got the attitude, and we really wanted to cast it younger to get a fresher look at all these guys.”

On the feature side, Tribeca is beginning to flourish.

“When it’s cooking, it’s cooking,” said Rosenthal, borrowing the signature line of Stanley Mott, the producer character in “Wag the Dog” played by Dustin Hoffman. He concocts a war campaign with a White House adviser (played by De Niro) to divert media attention from a presidential sex scandal. The Tribeca film for New Line which director Barry Levinson shot in 29 days for $15 million looks to be Tribeca’s first breakout film.

Tribeca also just got New Line to buy the book everyone wanted (the $2.75 million Nick Hornby novel “Father Figure”) and is pushing forward with Martin Scorsese and Miramax on the film version “Rent.”

Tribeca has a credit line with Japanese distribution company Shochiku for De Niro-starring projects that will begin next year when De Niro sets up an untitled film he’s co-writing and will direct, his first time behind the camera since “A Bronx Tale.”

Tribeca’s also producing with Billy Crystal and Paula Weinstein the Harold Ramis-directed Warner Bros. film “Analyze This”; they’re out to directors on “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” the live-action Universal project based on the Jay Ward cartoon which Tribeca will produce with Tiffany Ward from a Kenny Lonergan script. Rosenthal said it’s gained momentum since the success of the Ward cartoon adaptation “George of the Jungle.”

At Paramount, Tribeca has teamed with MTV Prods. to land “The Commitments” scribes Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais to adapt “Full Moon,” a movie about the heyday of the Who, back when the late Keith Moon was destroying drum sets onstage and hotel rooms off of it. “It’s not a Keith Moon biopic, but rather it’s intended to be a ‘My Favorite Year’ set in the rock business, as seen through the eyes of their roadies,” said Rosenthal. The book was written by former roadies Dougal Butler, Peter Lawrence and Chris Tengrove, and surviving Who members are involved.

Rosenthal said she hopes the momentum and the Shochiku deal will propel their shingle toward its ultimate goal: “We’d like eventually to have our own financing and really develop into a full-fledged independent studio.”

De Niro and Tribeca are agented by CAA’s Bryan Lourd.

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