‘Bonanno’ bonanza

$15 mil Showtime miniseries tops 11-pic slate

NEW YORK — Showtime’s new development slate, announced Wednesday, includes its most expensive project ever: the six-hour, $15 million miniseries “Bonanno,” based on the authorized life story of Mafia chieftain Joseph Bonanno Sr.

The cable network also unveiled 10 other films in various stages of development.

Jerry Offsay, president of programming, Showtime Networks Inc., said that Showtime will continue its strategy of premiering two original films a month to compliment the pay cable network’s lineup of theatrical films.

While HBO maintains its lead over Showtime in number of subscribers and Emmy Award nominations, Showtime has gained some ground lately in the perceived quality of its programming.

Showtime’s original series “Linc’s” earned many positive reviews for its premiere earlier this month, and the debut of the controversial “Lolita” scored the web’s highest rating in two years.

Aside from “Bonanno,” Offsay said that most of the two-hour films on Showtime’s development slate are budgeted at $4 million each, except for the family films, which are budgeted at $3 million.

“Bonanno” (tentative title) is produced by Kevin Teirney of Productions La Fete and executive produced by Bill Bonanno of Armedia Limited and Dan Paulson of Daniel L. Paulson Prods. Slated to begin filming this month in Montreal and Sicily, Italy, the miniseries stars Edward James Olmos.

“This is the first true-life story of a godfather from his own lips,” said Offsay, who added he was close to signing deal on two other miniseries.

Offsay also detailed the other products in development:

  • “A Cooler Climate,” which Offsay described as “one of our key pieces for next year,” will star Sally Field and Judy Davis. The film, distributed by Paramount Network Television, is scheduled to begin production in September. It’s about a middle aged divorcee who left her rich husband and now has no means of support. Dan Paulson and Susan Rose serve as executive producers. Susan Seidelman will direct from a script by Marsha Norman.

  • Jon Favreau, Judd Hirsch, Penelope Ann Miller and George C. Scott will star in “Marciano,” a biopic about boxer Rocky Marciano. Currently in production, the film is produced by MGM Worldwide Television Group. Rob Cowan serves as producer with Charles Winkler directing. Winkler also serves as writer.

  • “Love Songs,” a trilogy of short stories currently in production, depicts how ordinary people, confronted with extraordinary problems, can overcome them with the strength of their love for each other. Charles Fuller serves as producer and writer. Andre Braugher, Louis Gossett Jr. and Robert Townsend each direct and star in one story. Lynn Whitfield also stars in one of the stories.

  • Natalie Cole, Samantha Mathis, Marlee Matlin, Peter Sarsgaard and Jonathan Silverman will star in “Freak City,” a story about a rebellious young woman with multiple sclerosis who is confined to a nursing home. The drama, scheduled to begin production this month, will be produced by Sandy Stern and executive produced by Jon Turtle from a script by Jane Shepard. Lynne Littman will direct.

  • “The Agency,” which Offsay described as “one of our more commercial pictures,” is currently in post-production. The film stars Tom Berenger and Ron Silver in a story that follows an ex-CIA operative who is drafted back into action. Distributed by Paramount Network Television, the film is helmed by actor Tim Matheson from a screenplay by Roger Towne. The movie is produced by David Madden and Robert W. Cort and executive produced by Towne. Keri Lyn Selig, Tim Gibbons and Beaux Carson serve as co-producers.

  • Chad Lowe, Faye Masterson, Amanda Plummer, Patrick Warburton and Tyra Banks star in “The Apartment Complex,” a film about a psychology student who manages an apartment building with bizarre tenants. The film, in production, is directed by Tobe Hooper from a script by Karl Schaefer.

  • “Happy Face Murders” stars Marg Helgenberger and Ann-Margret in a dark comedy based on the true story of a woman who frames her abusive boyfriend for murder and ends up being arrested as an accomplice and jailed along with him. John Cosgrove and Terry Meurer serve as executive producers. Paramount Network Television is the distributor. Brian Trenchard-Smith directs from a script by John Pielmeier.

  • In “Sea People,” 14-year-old Amanda is a bit of loner living in a small coastal town and dreaming of swimming the English Channel. When she sees an elderly man apparently jumping off an inlet bridge, she dives in to save him. The man ends up changing her life. The film, starring Hume Cronyn and Frances Bay, is produced in association with Hallmark Entertainment. Patrick Whitley serves as executive producer, and Sheila Hockin serves as producer. Vic Sarin directs from a script by Wendy Biller and Chris Hawthorne.

  • “Summer’s End” (tentative title) is Helen Shaver’s feature directorial debut. The film, starring James Earl Jones, concerns a summer in the family’s lakeside home for a young boy and his older brother who recently lost their father. When a retired black doctor befriends the younger boy, the two brothers find themselves set against one another as the town’s racist past flares up once again. “Summer’s End” is produced for Showtime, in association with Hallmark Entertainment, by Temple Street Prods. from a script by Grant Scharbo and Jim Thompson. Connie Tavel of Tavel Entertainment and Gina Matthews of Round Table Entertainment serve as executive producers.

  • In “Dead Aviators” (tentative title), a 12-year-old girl is distraught when her mother goes off to France on a holiday and leaves her and her little brother with their stern grandmother. An Accent Entertainment/Temple Street Production for Showtime, in association with Hallmark and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., David Wellington directs this family film written by Semi Chellas.
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