Zoetrope unveils four pix

Younger Coppola to helm

Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope on Thursday revealed casting and other details of four MGM/UA projects lensing this fall, including “CQ,” the feature helming debut for son Roman Coppola.

“CQ,” with a screenplay penned by the younger Coppola, is the tale of a young American filmmaker in Paris in the late 1960s who takes over directing a low-budget sci-fi movie set in the year 2000. Pic stars Jeremy Davies (“Saving Private Ryan”).

Gerard Depardieu leads other actors attached including Elodie Bouchez, Giancarlo Gianni, Massimo Ghini, John Philip Law, Jason Schwartzman and newcomer Angela Lindvall.

Shooting begins next month in Paris and Luxembourg in association with Delux Studios of Luxembourg. Gary Marcus and Georgia Kacandess are the producers, and Willi Baer will exec produce with Francis Coppola and Zoetrope production head Linda Reisman.

To date, Roman Coppola has directed mostly musicvideos for his videos and commercials venture, the Directors Bureau. As a teenager, he worked on his father’s films in various production capacities, and after graduating NYU film school he produced five feature films including Columbia’s “The Spirit of ’76” and later directed visual effects and second-unit shooting of Francis Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.”

Meanwhile, Papa Coppola is keeping his latest feature project closely under wraps. But it’s known he’s penning an original screenplay for his next directorial outing, set to lense in fall 2001.

Other pics on American Zoetrope’s deck include “Pumpkin,” starring Christina Ricci, to be co-directed by Adam Larson Broder and Tony Abrams. Broder wrote the screenplay about a sorority girl drawn to a young disabled man.

Marisa Coughlan (“Freddy Got Fingered”) has also been cast, and producers are Karen Barber and Zoetrope. Shooting will begin in October.

Francis Coppola and Reisman will exec produce all four pics, which are targeted for 2001 release.

Mythical monster

“Monster,” from writer-director Hal Hartley, stars Sarah Polley as a journalist who travels to Iceland to find her missing fiance and forges a friendship with a mythical monster played by Robert Burke (“Triples”). Cast also includes Helen Mirren and Julie Christie.

Producers are Hartley, Cecilia Kate Roque and Fridik Fridiksson. Lensing began earlier this month in New York and in Iceland in association with the Icelandic Film Corp.

“Jeepers Creepers,” written and directed by Victor Salva (“Powder”), is described as an “art horror thriller” starring Gina Philips (“Living Out Loud”) and Justin Long (“Galaxy Quest”) as a brother and sister driving home from college on a school break.

A discovery in the basement of an abandoned church at the outset leads to their pursuit by a “nightmare cloaked in rags.” Filming in Florida began last month.

Producers are Tom Luse and Barry Opper.

The four American Zoetrope pics are part of a total of 10 the company will produce for release over the next three years by MGM’s United Artists specialty unit. “Jeepers Creepers” is co-financed with Cinerenta, and “Monster,” “CQ” and “Pumpkin” are co-financed with VCL.

“The Virgin Suicides,” directed by Coppola’s daughter, Sofia, and distributed by Paramount Classics earlier this year, roughly marked a transition by American Zoetrope into more arthouse-oriented fare of modest budgets $10 million and under. Coppola founded the company in 1969.

“We’re taking as our model and inspiration the golden age of United Artists, in which the artist is supported fully once script, budget and principal cast are agreed to,” said Coppola in a telephone interview from Florida, where he was visiting the location of “Jeepers Creepers.”

His son’s directing of “CQ” marks another occasion in which the Coppola clan has pulled together to help one of its young make the most of a big break, he said. “We believe in giving the young people some real responsibility early on,” Coppola said. “It’s (Roman’s) time to go out there on the high wire and the family will support him.”

He said Sofia gave her brother key casting help, repaying Roman for yeoman second-unit contributions on “Virgin Suicides.” Their mother, Eleanor, is filming a documentary about the making of “CQ,” as she did first for Coppola’s landmark “Apocalypse Now” and then for “Virgin Suicides.”

Meanwhile, Coppola acknowledged there was a time during the MGM/UA regime of former studio chief Frank Mancuso when the legendary filmmaker was negotiating to take over control of the UA division on terms including an equity stake. The deal died after current studio boss Alex Yemenidjian replaced Mancuso, he said.

“I felt I had the experience and the ability to really run that company as a true independent, but it wasn’t in the cards,” Coppola said. “The new MGM management wasn’t interested in having that company removed from under their wings.”

But Coppola added that American Zoetrope’s fledgling production relationship with UA still should help the specialty division enhance its creative footing. All four of the announced pics will be “in the can by Christmas,” he said.

Details of at least two more pics will be revealed shortly, he added, with possible deals in the works with Robert Duval (“The Apostle”) and Tumara Jenkins (“Slums of Beverly Hills”), as well as a possible Sofia Coppola project.

Said Reisman: “We are proud to launch our slate with a diverse array of talent and filmmakers. The films are representative of very original storytelling, strong casts and the filmmaker’s unique vision.”

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