Almodovar, Blue Tulip eye ‘Paper’

Helmer's English-language feature bow

“Live Flesh” director Pedro Almodovar is in negotiations to make the crime drama “The Paperboy,” his first English-language feature with Jan De Bont’s 20th Century Fox-based Blue Tulip Prods. producing, sources said.

Pic, which was written by Pete Dexter, based on his novel, is a Southern-set drama in the late 1960s focusing on a family of journalists who become involved with a death-row inmate.

“Paperboy” would be a co-production between Blue Tulip and Almodovar’s El Deseo outfit. De Bont, Blue Tulip’s Michael Peyser and El Deseo’s Agustin Almodovar would produce, but deals are not yet in place.

Financing and distribution for the pic is not yet decided. While De Bont’s overall deal is with Tom Rothman’s Fox division, the film could land at 20th’s specialized arm, Fox Searchlight. The pic’s budget — currently in the $10 million-to-$15 million range — is slightly higher than normal Searchlight levels.

“This film isn’t going to be expensive, but neither is it definitely a Searchlight project,” said a source.

Sources said that Almodovar plans to make another pic in Spain before “Paperboy.” If all goes according to plan, the U.S. film could be in production by the end of the year or early 1999.

If Almodovar agrees to direct, he is virtually certain to become closely involved in the scripting process in order to inject the project with his unique style.

“Flesh,” for example, was based on a novel by British crime writer Ruth Rendell, but was completely rewritten by the Spanish auteur to take account of his own sensibilities.

Almodovar, who is currently promoting “Flesh,” does not have a designated next project at El Deseo. El Deseo has several English-language titles in development, including the alternative Western “Out of the Shed,” for Almodovar to direct, and Menno Meyjes’ bullfighting drama “Manolete,” which the Almodovars will produce with Ed Pressman.

El Deseo is also on the prowl for a new production deal, following the lapsing of its partnership with Ciby 2000. MGM-owned Goldwyn Films, which was established last year by Wendy Palmer and a number of other former Ciby execs, distributed “Flesh” in the U.S.

Sources said that El Deseo and Goldwyn have held discussions about reteaming, but have not struck a deal.

De Bont’s next directing project is most likely the sci-fi-Western “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”

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