More De Bont for Fox

Studio, helmer in two-year, first-look redux

Extending a relationship that began with the 1994 hit “Speed” and survived its sequel “Speed 2,” 20th Century Fox has renewed its first look deal with helmer Jan De Bont and his production company, Blue Tulip Prods.

Coinciding with the announcement came news that Michael Peyser, who in 1996 was brought in to partner with De Bont in Blue Tulip, is leaving the company to establish his own independent production shingle.

With the new two-year pact (his previous two-year deal expired in August), Fox — which has been one of the most active in cutting back on its producer terms deals — has made it clear to De Bont that it wants the Dutch helmer to be more aggressive in making films for the studio.

“Jan is a terrific filmmaker and key member of the Fox team,” said Tom Rothman, prexy of production for 20th Century Fox. “He has several great projects in the works for both Laura (Ziskin, prexy of Fox 2000) and myself. Bill and all of us here look forward to the next two years and many beyond.”

During its relationship with the helmer, Fox has permitted De Bont to direct “Twister” for Amblin and Warner Bros.; and most recently allowed him to helm “The Haunting of Hill House” for DreamWorks (which begins lensing Nov. 30). In return, the studio expects to get his next film, which most likely will be the adventure “Ghost Riders in the Sky” for Fox 2000.

Because of his involvement with “Hill House,” De Bont is no longer attached to helm the sci-fi thriller “Minority Report” for Fox, although he will produce the film, which the studio hopes to get before the cameras next year.

De Bont also is producing along with Deborah Schindler the thriller “Zero Hour,” to which the helmer had been attached to direct but dropped out to take the helm of “Ghost Riders.” Earlier this year, “Ghost Riders” came close to a greenlight and pre-production had already begun, but in April, citing script and budget problems, Fox put the project on the back burner.

Among the other projects being developed as directing vehicles for De Bont are the sci-fi thriller “Cosm”; “Nuvolari,” a biopic of Italian race car driver Tazio Nuvolari; and the time travel thriller, “Old City.”

De Bont also is developing to direct the thriller “Hindenberg” for producers Arnold and Anne Kopelson.

Fox and De Bont first pacted in 1994 during production of “Speed,” the cinematographer’s directorial debut. The deal was amended in 1996 when Peyser was brought onboard as a producing partner, in a move aimed at increasing Blue Tulip’s output of films. While that deal was said to signify a major increase in Fox’s commitment to Blue Tulip, the shingle has yet to produce a film for the studio.

De Bont said he intends to bring in someone to take Peyser’s place as a producing partner, and that he already has begun talking to candidates.

“Working with Michael over the past two years has been a very rewarding experience,” said De Bont. “He’s a great collaborator and very creative, and I look forward to making movies with him in the future.”

“It’s been terrific fun working with a director of Jan’s great ability,” said Peyser. “Opportunities to produce a group of films that need my full attention outside of our deal provoked the move.”

It’s unlikely that Peyser will continue as a producer on projects he has been developing at Blue Tulip. He will instead focus on outside projects, including producing “Honest,” the directing debut of Brit rocker Dave Stewart. Peyser also intends to pursue projects he can direct and produce.

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