Banner bows with 'Embrujo'

LONDON — Mexican helmers Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron have joined with screenwriter Laura Esquivel, producer Berta Navarro and sales agent Rosa Bosch to form Tequila Gang, a new sales and production company with offices in Mexico City and London.

The company will bow its first pic, Carlos Carrera’s “Un Embrujo” (Under a Spell), at next week’s Toronto film festival. Although the pic was produced by Navarro’s entity, Salamander Producciones, it will now appear under the Tequila Gang banner.

At Toronto, Tequila also will be negotiating backing for two new projects: del Toro’s “The Devil’s Backbone” — a $7 million drama to be shot in Spain — and the $2 million “Orders From Above,” which will be helmed by Carlos Cuaron, Alfonso’s brother, in Mexico.

Neither del Toro nor Cuaron are exclusive to Tequila and they will continue to work on studio pics. The idea behind creating the indie is to provide an outlet for their personal projects, and to enable them to produce pics and “nurture” young talent.

Bosch told Daily Variety that one of the goals of the company was to “break into the Hispanic market in (the) States” as well as to capitalize on Hollywood’s growing interest in Latin America. “We thought it was time,” she said.

Although both del Toro and Cuaron now work principally in Hollywood, both made their names on low-budget Mexican pics, del Toro with the 1992 horror drama “Cronos,” and Cuaron with the 1991 comedy “Love in the Time of Hysteria.”

Since then del Toro has gone on to direct the Dimension shocker “Mimic,” and Cuaron has helmed “A Little Princess” for Warner Bros. and “Great Expectations” for Fox.

Both are attached to new U.S. projects. Del Toro is scheduled to direct a version of “Montecristo,” for American Zoetrope and Intermedia Films, and Cuaron has pics in development at both Miramax and Warner.

Screenwriter Esquivel adapted her own novel into a script for the hugely successful Mexican drama “Like Water for Chocolate,” directed by Alfonso Arau.

Bosch, who has worked as a programmer for the London and San Sebastian Film Festivals, will handle international sales and distribution out of London.

(Mary Sutter in Mexico City contributed to this story.)

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