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‘Black Iris’ among Fresh Produce pix

Company to harvest 'Barbarians'

Joyce Schweickert and Marshall Persinger’s Fresh Produce Co., which scored indie gold with the sale of its first project — the Brendan Fraser starrer “Still Breathing” — to October Films, has wasted no time in harvesting a ripe development slate.

The 1-year-old company said it will back the comedy-drama “Black Iris,” to be helmed by Daniel Petrie (“Cocoon: The Return”).

Shirley MacLaine, Mary Steenburgen and Laura Linney will star in the pic, which Persinger and Kevin Goetz will produce. Schweickert and Gary Lucchesi will exec produce.

Fresh Produce describes “Iris” as a drama in the vein of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf.” Following the suicide of her husband, an alcoholic woman and her 15-year-old son move in with the woman’s mother. But tension rises as the younger woman blames the older one for her husband’s death.

Pic, which will be set in the Midwest, is due to begin shooting in February 1999.

Aboard ‘Barbarians’

Fresh Produce also has boarded the historical drama “Waiting for the Barbarians,” which is based on the novel by South African author J.M. Coetzee. Noted German filmmaker Werner Herzog (“Fitzcarraldo”) will helm the pic from Coetzee’s screenplay.

Fresh will co-produce “Barbarians” with Sean Penn and Michael Fitzgerald’s Clyde Is Hungry Prods. “(Clyde) brought the book to us,” said Persinger. “We will cast the film and find financing for it together.”

The partners are eyeing an April 1999 start in western China for the ambitious production.

Fresh Produce has wrapped production on two pics since “Breathing” — “Kill the Man” and “Twin Falls Idaho.”

First-timers Tom Booker and Jon Kean wrote and directed “Kill,” a nerdy comedy in the vein of “Clerks.” Summit Entertainment co-financed the pic with Fresh Produce.

Polish twins

The drama “Twin Falls” is the directorial debut of identical twin brothers Michael and Mark Polish. In the dramatic and tragic pic, the brothers tell the story of Siamese twins Blake and Francis Falls.

Meanwhile, Fresh Produce is in pre-production on its second film for October, the teen horror pic “Cherry Falls,” which is being backed by October genre division Rogue Pictures.

Ken Selden is writing the pic, which Eli Selden and Industry Entertainment’s Julie Yorn are exec producing.

Persinger said that, in general, Fresh Produce planned to keep the budgets of its forthcoming productions under $10 million. “Cherry,” which October is financing, will cost around $12 million. Both “Twin” and “Kill” cost less than $1 million to make.

Still in development is “Oh Carolina,” the directorial debut of Sandy Macleod. Film will star Samuel L. Jackson and Steenburgen, and will be exec produced by filmmaker John Sayles.

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