Merchant Ivory rolls 'Mary,' 'Bowl,' 'Masseur'

NEW YORK — Merchant Ivory Prods., currently in post-production on “A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries,” is moving ahead on three new films.

This fall, Ismail Merchant will direct the Anglo-Indian period piece “Cotton Mary,” starring Natasha Richardson, James Wilby and Sakina Jaffrey.

The pic, which will be shot on location in India, will mark the third film helmed by Merchant, who has frequently taken on producing chores during his three-decade collaboration with director James Ivory and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Merchant’s previous directorial outings were “In Custody” and “The Proprietor.”

An original screenplay by Alexandra Vietz, “Cotton Mary” is the story of two Anglo-Indian sisters and their tangled interactions with a British family during the 1950s, not long after Indian independence.

Universal Pictures has worldwide theatrical distribution rights to the film, while Canal Plus has French TV rights. Nayeem Hafizka and Gil Donaldson are producers.

In the spring of 1999, Ivory will direct a screen adaptation of Henry James’ “The Golden Bowl” from a script by Jhabvala. The film, which will shoot on location in England, will be distributed in North America by Paramount Pictures. Merchant will produce.

“The Golden Bowl” will be the third James novel that Gotham-based Merchant Ivory will bring to the bigscreen. The company previously produced “The Europeans” and “The Bostonians.”

In the year 2000, Merchant plans to direct “Mystic Masseur,” from Caryl Phillips’ screenplay based on the V.S. Naipaul novel. The film will be shot on location in Trinidad.

“A Soldier’s Daughter” will be released in September in the U.S. by October Films, Universal’s majority-owned specialized distrib. Capitol Films has sales rights outside North America.

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