Interscope sets edgier slate

Sci-fi, comedy and thrillers all on list

The vicious “Very Bad Things” is about as far apart from the cute “Three Men and a Baby” as you can get.

But it’s the sort of movie that Interscope Communications president and chief executive officer Ted Field says he wants his company to make from now on.

After a three-year drought marked by duds such as “Kazaam,” “Boys” and “The Proposition,” Interscope is angling to make a hipper set of pictures to feed the ever-hungry Polygram distribution machine.

New execs on board

Toward that end the company has hired a couple of new production execs and unveiled a handful of new projects.

“We had a pretty bad run with six or seven movies that didn’t work because they were too formulaic,” admitted Field. “While we intend to continue making mainstream, commercial fare, the movie company is going to become more like the record company; it’s going to become bolder.”

As examples of the new strategy, Field cites Peter Berg’s “Very Bad Things” and the $70 million Robin Williams-starrer “What Dreams May Come,” helmed by Vincent Ward, although problems with special effects on “Dreams” have pushed it out of summer and into October.

‘Things’ in bag

Last month Polygram Films paid around $5 million for U.S. rights to the $7 million-budgeted “Things,” after passing on the project at script stage.

“Prior to making these films, our development slate was headed in a different direction, and it took longer than we would have liked to adjust,” he said.

To deal with the new level of activity, which could see the company making up to six films per annum, Interscope has hired two new execs: Kaye Popofsky and Gary Goodman.

Popofsky comes to Interscope from UTA, where she packaged a number of independent films. Goodman was formerly a production exec at DreamWorks.

According to Scott Kroopf, Interscope’s executive vice president and head of production, the company’s new slate responds more to the needs of the international market, where parent Polygram has a particularly strong presence.

“Our movies are now less concept-driven and more focused on script and director,” he claimed, adding that Interscope was developing pics with filmmakers such as Allison Anders, Vin Diesel, Marcus Nispel and Vondie Curtis Hall, among others.

Interscope will probably provide one or two tentpole films to Polygram each year. Casting is underway on the action thriller “Worst Case Scenario,” which will mark the return to the feature directing chair of commercials helmer Dominic Sena (“Kalifornia”).

Michael France (“Cliffhanger”) and Mark Allen Smith (“Robin Hood”) are writing the screenplay, the story of a group of computer experts who work at a top secret think tank.

‘Blast Off’ rewrite

Another upcoming project is Philip Noyce’s space actioner “Blast Off,” which the director is currently rewriting himself. And Interscope has plans to finance “Earl Watt,” a big-budget, sci-fi picture from Josh and Jonas Pate, the writing-directing team behind indie pics “The Grave” and “Deceiver.”

In the edgier vein is a new film from writer-director David Twohy, “Pitch Black,” which Interscope production execs Tom Engelman and Erica Huggins describe as ” ‘Scream’ set in space.” Pic begins shooting in July in Australia.

“Crimson Tide” scribe Michael Schiffer, who produced “Very Bad Things,” has a first-look production deal with Interscope for his BallPark Prods. banner. His next pic under that deal is likely to be the comedy “Le Divorce.” Diane Johnson is writing the script based on her novel.

Author Chris Van Allsburg and producer Bill Teitler, two of the creators of Interscope’s “Jumanji,” also have a first-look deal with the company. They are developing a fantasy pic based on another Van Allsburg book, “Widow’s Broom.”

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