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Yakim, Fugard projects top Good Machine slate

CANNES — Good Machine, growing into a well-oiled enterprise, will produce and finance Boaz Yakim’s supernatural thriller “Sympathy for the Devil,” an adaptation of Athol Fugard’s novel “Tsotsi” with Beth B helming and scripting, and is in final talks to set up the comedy “Finger Rocks” at United Artists under Bryan Buckley’s direction.

Additionally, the New York-based indie run by Ted Hope, James Schamus and David Linde is developing 11 other major indie pics with both emerging and established directors.

Good Machine has grown significantly from a year ago, when Hope and Schamus were in Cannes sharing a one-room office and pitching Todd Solondz’s “Happiness” to foreign buyers.

Since then, Good Machine has beefed up its release sked to roughly five to seven pics per year for numerous studios — the biggest of which is Ang Lee’s “Ride With the Devil” for Universal, currently in production with a $38 million budget — and expanded its international operation to handle all of its foreign distribution under Good Machine Intl. topper Linde. The company, founded in 1991 by Hope and Schamus, has 62 employees working out of its downtown New York loft offices.

The indie is also coming to the end of a two-year overall first-look deal with 20th Century Fox in September. Though Good Machine has set up seven feature pics with Fox (including the highly lauded “Ice Storm” under Lee’s helm), Hope left open whether the company would re-ink with the Rupert Murdoch-owned studio. Good Machine already shares its international distribution outfit with Universal-based October Films.

In keeping with its mandate to develop and service director-writer-producer relationships, Good Machine has branched out in the last 12 months, forging new relationships with emerging directors like Yakim, Buckley, Beth B, Nicholas Hytner, Alan Taylor and Tom Krueger, as well as European helmers Marius Holst and Neils Arden Oplev. The company also is starting to work with new producers like inhouse Good Machine staffers Mary Jane Skalski, Anthony Bregman and Ross Katz.

“The idea has always been that James and I were very much attracted to directors not for the single project, but for the long haul,” Hope told Daily Variety in an interview at the Good Machine offices in the Grand Hotel building. “Why spend all that time figuring out the common language of a director only for one film?”

Good Machine is in production on its fifth film with Lee, following “Ice Storm,” “The Wedding Banquet,” “Pushing Hands” and “Eat Drink Man Woman.” The company also has a solid relationship with helmer Hal Hartley, though his Cannes competition pic “Henry Fool” is the first produced by another company.

Buckley’s project “Finger Rocks” will be written and helmed by him. Good Machine will produce and is in talks with United Artists to release.Yakim’s “Sympathy for the Devil” is a supernatural thriller pitting a cop against the ultimate forces of evil. John Penotti produces along with Good Machine, which is packaging the pic for pre-sales. Yakim’s last credit was “A Price Above Rubies.””Tsotsi” tells the tale of a South African hoodlum’s salvation. Hope will exec produce. Beth B and Good Machine’s Mary Jane Skalski and Phyllis Kaufman will produce. Pic had been in development with RHI Entertainment before Good Machine nabbed it.

The films represent the cross-section of budgets and subject material that Hope and Schamus enjoy. Hope said Good Machine will continue to make all types of pics, for $200,000 or $25 million, depending on what the budget requires.

Other new projects in the Good Machine slate include:

  • “Trick,” a gay romantic-comedy about the search by two men for a place to shack up. Production begins this summer under first-time helmer Jim Fall. Eric d’Arbeloff and Good Machine’s Ross Katz are producing. Exec producers are Anthony Bregman, Skalski and Mark Beigelman. Bob Hawk is a co-producer.

  • “Sweetheart,” a drama about a pregnant teen. Alan Tayler (“Palookaville”) will direct his own screenplay for Fox Searchlight.n “Standing In,” based on the novella by Phillip Caputo about a young man unwittingly drawn into the lives of a wealthy Connecticut family who just lost their son. Dutch helmer Marius Holst is attached. Pic is in development with Searchlight.

  • “The Big Bazhooley,” based on the children’s book by novelist Peter Carey. Pic will be Good Machine’s first foray into family films.

  • “The Slaughter Rule,” Alex and Andrew Smith’s first feature about the influence a shifty man has on a high school football player. David O. Russell is exec producing.

  • “Fishtail,” Tom Krueger’s first feature about a young teen as he attempts to reconcile with his trouble-making father.

  • “The Key Man,” directed by Neils Arden Oplev from Peter Himmelstein’s screenplay about a young insurance broker whose life goes out of control when a scam proves difficult. Oplev helmed “Portland” for Zentropa.

    Other major projects on the Good Machine slate include:

  • “Los Alamos,” based on Joseph Kanon’s best-selling thriller/love story set against the backdrop of a murder during the making of the Atomic bomb. Nicholas Hytner will direct from Anne Meredith’s screenplay. Pic will be released by 20th Century Fox.

  • “Fakes,” inspired by the infamous Dutch artist Hans van Meegeren, who forged a Vermeer that was bought by a German field marshal. Schamus is scripting for Hytner to direct at Fox.

  • “Berlin Diaries,” a historical love story based on the memoirs of Maria Vassiltchikov and her involvement with Adam von Trott, one of the assassination team trying to kill Hitler. John Logan is adapting the book for Ang Lee to direct. Nicole Kidman is attached to star at Columbia Pictures.

  • “Antigone in New York,” a pic based on Janusz Glowacki’s play about a broken man who is given a chance for redemption when he does a good deed for another. Pic will shoot in the spring under John Coles’ direction. Fred Berner and Skalski are set to produce.

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