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Bel Air blooming

Reuther adds 'Kansas,' 'Sadness'

Steven Reuther’s Bel Air Entertainment film production company, formed early this year through a co-financing pact with funding from Warner Bros. and French pay TV programmer Canal Plus, has added two new film projects to its burgeoning development slate: “Above Kansas” and “Sadness at Leaving.”

First-time scribe Patrick Brogan penned “Kansas,” a fantasy-adventure story that picks up where film classic “The Wizard of Oz” left off. Story follows the Wicked Witch of the West’s evil flying monkeys as they seek to recapture the ruby slippers Dorothy wore back home.

“It borrows the mythology from “The Wizard of Oz” and brings it to present-day Kansas,” Reuther told Daily Variety.

But while only a few minutes had elapsed in the flying monkeys’ Oz universe, two generations had passed on Earth. The slippers had since come into the possession of a descendent of the original rainbow-traveling Dorothy. Pic’s being produced by Stu Miller and John Brown, along with Al Ruddy and Andre Morgan.

Reuther said “Kansas,” which he’d first seen during his days at his previous Douglas/Reuther production company, is being developed as a summer event film. The producers will go out to directors after a few changes are made to the script.

Also just placed on the development roster is “Sadness at Leaving,” described as an epic romance set during the Cold War of the 1960s. Hanna Weg adapted the script from a novel by Erje Ayden, which was itself based on the true life story of Sergey Nechayev, aka Carl Halman, a spy for the former USSR.

Richard Gere is attached to star in “Sadness,” playing a Soviet assassin who’s sent to live in the United States in deep cover and await further orders — for years if necessary. He even marries and has a child.

“He begins to hope that phone call never comes,” Reuther said. “And then when it does, he has to decide whether his honor should be to politics and his country, or to his wife and child.”

“Sadness” is being produced in association with Bobby Newmyer and Jeffrey Silver of Outlaw Prods.

“Kansas” and “Sadness” will be among the first projects to come under the stewardship of Alex Schwartz, Bel Air’s newly appointed executive vice president of production.

Schwartz, who joined Bel Air on May 1, had most recently served as senior vice prexy of production at Walt Disney Studios, which she’d joined as a creative exec in 1991. At Disney, Schwartz worked on such projects as “Sister Act,” “Deceived,” “Sister Act II: Back in the Habit,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” “Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion” and the upcoming “Beloved.”

Before her stint at Disney, Schwartz was a reader at Morgan Creek and Castle Rock. She also has produced television commercials and documentaries, including an Arts & Entertainment network historical series titled “The Eagle and the Bear.”

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