Malkovich, Dafoe toplining

TORONTO — Lions Gate Films has picked up North American distribution rights to Nicolas Cage’s producing debut, the supernatural thriller “Shadow of the Vampire.”

Pic, which stars John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe, is a fictionalized account of acclaimed director F.W. Murnau’s making of “Nosferatu,” the first, and possibly most acclaimed, adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula.”

Malkovich plays the enigmatic Murnau, who is prepared to test society’s limits in his quest for authenticity. Dafoe is Max Schreck, the actor who played Nosferatu in Murnau’s film.

Elias Merhige is helming the pic, which also stars Cary Elwes, Eddie Izzard and Catherine McCormack. Cage and his partner Jeff Levine are producing through their Saturn Films banner. Steven Katz wrote the screenplay.

Saturn had previously pacted with Lions Gate Films Intl. to handle foreign sales on the pic, which shot in Luxembourg last spring and is co-financed with Metrodome Films and the BBC in the U.K. That gave Lions Gate’s Tom Ortenberg and Mark Urman a chance to get an early look at the project, which is currently in post-production.

Negotiations with Saturn, repped by CAA, were finalized in Toronto over the weekend.

Cage last starred in Joel Schumacher’s “8MM” for Columbia Pictures. He next appears in “Bringing Out the Dead” for director Martin Scorsese and Paramount Pictures. He and Levine founded Saturn 2-1/2 years ago.

Among Lions Gate’s forthcoming releases is Kevin Smith’s “Dogma,” starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

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