Farrell, Roffer climb to top of HyperFilms

Pair are co-prexys, 'Habeas Corpus', 'Pavilion' in the works

Lynwood Spinks has named Melinda Farrell and Steven Roffer co-presidents of HyperFilms, his Universal-based shingle. The former Carolco chief operating officer hopes the execs will help him send HyperFilms into overdrive on a slew of film projects they’ve put together.

Universal has set “Reversal of Fortune” scribe Nick Kazan to write the script for “Habeas Corpus,” a drama that HyperFilms is producing with Will Smith, James Lassiter and Ann Carli’s Overbrook Entertainment.

The film is based on a true story in which an attorney helped free 19-year-old Lisa Lambert, who had been imprisoned for life on charges of murdering a romantic rival. That decision was overturned by a federal judge after dogged efforts by a defense attorney. The film is based on a series of Los Angeles Times articles.

HyperFilms’ first film headed for production is “Pavilion of Women,” an adaptation of a Pearl Buck novel to be directed by Maggie Greenwald (“The Ballad of Little Jo”) in China this summer. It’s a love story between a Western priest and a wealthy Chinese woman set during the pre-WWII Japanese invasion of China.

The film will star Lou Yan, a Chinese actress who also wrote the script and who produces with Spinks. Universal has acquired worldwide rights outside China to the film, a Shanghai Moonstone Intl./Beijing Film Studios/HyperFilms co-production.

HyperFilms has hired Carol Doyle to adapt “From Potter’s Field,” one of Patricia Cornwell’s bestselling novels about forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta, and set Will Aldis, the writer of “Back to School” and “Stealing Home,” to write “The Camp Counselor,” a comedy about a twentysomething loser who gets a job as a counselor in a camp for the elderly — at which his grandfather is a camper.

In addition, Amy Ephron is adapting the Rosemary Timperley short story “Harry” into a thriller about a young mother, her 5-year-old daughter and the kid’s invisible playmate. Ephron will produce with Spinks.

And James Still (“The Velocity of Gary”) is writing “Children of the Night,” a supernatural thriller about an overzealous cop who accidentally kills a child and has to deal with its ghost.

Other projects in development:

– “Fidelity,” a David Adler-scripted drama described as “Blow Up” in the publishing world;

– “Twenty Years to Life,” a drama culled from events in the making of Jonathan Stack’s “The Farm,” which won the docu-mentary prize at the last Sundance Film Festival. The film is about a filmmaker who crosses the line when he becomes obsessed with proving the innocence of an inmate, even though it puts his life in danger;

– “Muse,” a drama about a romantic rivalry between Italian actress Eleonnora Duse and French actress Sarah Bernhardt over the poet/playwright Gabrielle D’Annunzio. The script is by Peter Rader (“Waterworld”) and Michelle Weissman;

– “Burning Love,” a script by Suzanne V. Johnson described as a black comedy about a young man trying to get a date with his dream girl, without accidentally killing her first. Spinks produces with Joni Deakins and Mardie Hughes;

– “5150,” another fact-based tale, is a love story set in a San Francisco public psychiatric facility written by Zeke Richardson, an orderly in a mental hospital for seven years.

– “Pet Assassin” is a Jon Tondelli black comedy about a guy hired to bump off annoying pets.

HyperFilms is also working with Alliance Pictures and Andras Hamori to produce “The Rose Crossing” by Nicholas Jose, an Australian novel about the failed expedition of an English naturalist shipwrecked with his beautiful daughter on an island in the Indian Ocean. There, they encounter a group of Chinest royals.

Farrell and Roffer, veteran studio executives who met while at Warner Bros., join Spinks from their own production shingle, Grand Central Pictures. They will continue to develop the projects they already had set up at various studios, including films with directors Steven Herek and Jonathan Mostow, and the war correspondent drama “Triage,” which they are producing with Mario Kassar.

“Mindy and Steven have the high energy and focus to galvanize our development activities,” said Spinks. “They have strong relationships with writers and directors.”

Spinks expects Farrell and Roffer to stick with a game plan of finding reality-based dramas that fall under the radar.

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