No pix made, Fox-Icon shut

Murdoch-Gibson Oz prod'n co. had high hopes

SYDNEY — Confirming months of speculation, the plug has been pulled on Fox-Icon, the production joint venture of Rupert Murdoch and Mel Gibson based at Sydney’s Fox Studios Australia.

This, despite assurances by 20th Century Fox acquisitions and productions senior veep Tony Safford at last month’s Screen Producers’ Assn. of Australia confab that the banner would continue.

“The joint venture has come to the end of its natural life,” FSA chief exec Kim Williams tersely told Daily Variety. “It had a term and it’s finished.”

Missed opportunities

Launched with much fanfare in late 1996 amid predictions up to five films would be lensed during the co-venture’s three-year pact, not one film was shot by Fox-Icon. So, while most local filmmakers consider Fox-Icon a tragic missed opportunity, few are surprised at the outcome.

Most observers agree the two sides had difficulty agreeing on projects to greenlight. And a cumbersome four-level development structure spanning the Sydney Fox-Icon office, Fox Studios Australia and the head offices of Fox and Icon made it all the more difficult.

The banner’s closet brush with production was “Loving You, Loving Me,” a film from the award-winning “Radiance” team of Ned Lander and Rachel Perkins, which has applied for co-financing with Oz government funder the Film Finance Corp., and, according to Williams, may yet be “made by the two companies provided we can agree on financing.”

Parent co. busy

Unlike Fox-Icon, Fox is active Down Under, producing the just-released Jane Campion exec produced “Soft Fruit,” Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge” and the forthcoming “Bootmen,” inspired by global dance sensation “Tap Dogs.” Fox’s theatrical arm has just picked up Nick Giannopoulos’ comedy “The Wog Boy” for Oz release.

“We have a continuing commitment to the Australian film industry,” said Williams, who has also delivered two sitcom pilots to Oz webs and has TV dramas in development.

And despite the failure of Fox-Icon to produce anything during its three year life, Fox-Icon topper Tim White personally executive produced Beyond’s Cannes Critics Week screener “Strange Fits of Passion” and Beyond/Becker’s box office sensation “Two Hands” during that time.

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