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Wang commits to ‘Center’ for Artisan

Pic to be shot on digital video, blown up to 35mm

Director Wayne Wang has committed to direct “Center of the World” for Artisan, with production set to begin this spring. An erotic tale about love and sex, the film will be shot as down and dirty as its subject matter: Wang will direct the pic on digital video and blow it up to a 35mm print.

The film was acquired in a negative pickup deal by Artisan presidents Bill Block and Amir Malin. Controlling worldwide rights, Artisan will distribute domestically and sell foreign through Summit Entertainment at the American Film Market.

The film will be written by Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt. Peter Newman and Wang will produce, with Ira Deutchman and Greg Johnson exec producing. Auster and Newman worked with Wang on “Smoke” and “Blue in the Face,” while Hustvedt has written extensively on the subjects of sex and feminism, including the novel “Tightrope,” which focused on strippers.

The film’s racy subject matter is a departure for Wang, whose last film was “Anywhere but Here,” and whose other credits include “The Joy Luck Club” and “Chinese Box.” But the subject matter and digital technology fascinated him.

“We wanted to make a really erotic film about sex and love, that could be like ‘The Last Tango in Paris’ for a younger generation,” said Wang. “I wanted to do a movie about this young generation of guys who are dealing with the Internet, software and day-trading; this whole new world out there where they’re making shitloads of money fast, and not knowing what their lives are about yet besides that money and easy pleasures. And we wanted to do something on video, which is developing very quickly. I’ve seen the way the stuff is shot and transferred, and it looks beautiful and interesting in its own way. It’s also flexible, fast and cheaper.”

Wang was vague on the plot, but said it’s set in San Francisco and Las Vegas. They pitched the concept to Block and Malin, who quickly made the deal despite the risque subject matter.

“I thought ‘Anywhere But Here’ was one of the underappreciated films of the last year and called Wayne to tell him that, and added that I would love to make his next movie,” said Block. “He called right after the new year and said this is what I want to do, and it’s exactly what we haven’t seen. It’s an erotically charged, graphically depicted, yet tasteful, adult sexual thriller positioned for the arthouse audience with a sophisticated director.”

Artisan, flush with cash from “The Blair Witch Project,” has managed to mobilize several films with cutting-edge creative talent ready for early 2000 start dates. That includes “Side Ways,” the Rex Pickett novel adapted and to be directed by Alexander Payne (“Election”), “Blair Witch Project 2” with director Joe Berlinger and “Made,” a Jon Favreau-scripted and directed film which reteams him with “Swingers” co-star Vince Vaughn.

ICM’s Bart Walker brokered the deal.

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