Partners turn darlings of H'wood

NEW YORK — Mutual Film partners Gary Levinsohn and Mark Gordon have stepped up their presence as co-financiers of high-profile films by taking foreign rights to three.

They’ll partner with Universal in the Milos Forman-directed “Man on the Moon,” starring Jim Carrey and Danny DeVito, and the Andrew Bergman-directed “Isn’t She Great,” starring Bette Midler, Nathan Lane and John Cleese. Mutual will partner with Paramount on “Wonder Boys,” the Curtis Hanson-directed drama starring Michael Douglas. Mutual Film International will shop foreign territories at MIFED.

With studios continuing to look for risk-sharing partners to offset the high costs of star-driven movies, Mutual began to emerge as a major player at both Universal and Paramount last year. Its U partnerships so far have been in the films “The Jackal,” “Primary Colors” and the Patrick Swayze starrer “Black Dog.” And after co-financing and producing “Hard Rain” at Paramount, Mutual became co-financier of “A Simple Plan,” the Sam Raimi-directed thriller based on the Scott Smith novel, starring Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda.

Promising partners

Co-financiers are emerging overnight as the darlings of Hollywood, such as when Village Roadshow Pictures quickly stepped up to partner on seven films. While VRP is exclusive to Warner Bros., Levinsohn and Gordon are pursuing a strategy of working with the two studios to invest in films they hope will be winners in the foreign marketplace.

“We are delighted to extend our business with Paramount and Universal, so that we may continue to provide our partners with access to such exceptional filmmakers and stars,” said Mutual partners Levinsohn and Gordon.

That co-financing arrangement is offset by Mutual’s own movie development program, which most recently led to “Saving Private Ryan.” Mutual developed that film with Paramount from a Robert Rodat pitch that hooked Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, at which time it became a DreamWorks co-production. With “A Simple Plan” generating strong buzz, Mutual finds itself in the middle of two of Paramount’s biggest films of the year, after Levinsohn and Gordon produced “Saving Private Ryan” with Spielberg and Ian Bryce.

New films

As for the new films, “Man on the Moon” is a Jersey Films biopic of the quirky comic Andy Kaufman, based on a script by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who last teamed with Forman on “People vs. Larry Flynt.” Jersey’s DeVito, Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher are producing the film, which is still shooting in New York and Los Angeles. “Isn’t She Great,” the Lobell-Bergman film about “Valley of the Dolls” author Jacqueline Susann, was scripted by Paul Rudnick (“In and Out”) and is in post-production.

Still prepping for production is “Wonder Boys,” the Scott Rudin-produced film based on the Michael Chabon novel adapted by Steven Kloves (“The Fabulous Baker Boys”). The film marks the first for Hanson since he was nominated for an Oscar for “L.A. Confidential.” Hanson begins production with Michael Douglas in early 1999.

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