Searchlight’s Law returning to legit

Exec taking on 'Full Monty'

Lindsay Law, president of Fox Searchlight Pictures since 1995, is ankling his post to take an exclusive production deal at 20th Century Fox.

Law — who had for months been rumored to be leaving — will depart Searchlight effective Jan. 21 and set up offices in New York while splitting his time between Gotham and Connecticut.

The studio is currently considering an array of candidates to replace Law as soon as possible, although no negotiations are active.

“I turned 50 last year,” Law told Daily Variety. “I suddenly realized that I had lived in a variety of neighborhoods in Los Angeles over the past four years here, but that Connecticut and New York are really my homes. I was looking for a way to get back there.”

Bill Mechanic, chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment, said: “Lindsay has made a valuable contribution to the development of Searchlight, including overseeing such films as ‘The Full Monty,’ ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ ‘Waking Ned Devine’ and currently ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and ‘Titus.’ We now have our strongest lineup ever in store for 2000. In as much as Lindsay wanted to return to the theater, we all agreed the perfect way to do it was to have him oversee the stage production of his greatest hit — ‘The Full Monty’ — and thus remain part of the Fox family.”

Added Law, who stayed past the end of his contract to complete two pics he was working on: “It is not easy to leave. I am very pleased with the work I have done here. The entire Fox family has been very supportive of what we do at Fox Searchlight.”

Law’s departure comes two months after Fox’s Tom Rothman, who founded the specialty division and was instrumental in bringing Law to Searchlight, was upped to prexy of 20th Century Fox Film Group, overseeing the studio’s two main divisions.

Law’s first order of business is to return to his love, the theater: He will supervise the musical stage production of “Full Monty.”

Law began his career as a stage manager and a set designer. He will begin workshopping “Monty” in February.

“Monty” represents Fox’s first foray into theater, which, says Law, “could conceivably be the start of something exciting.”

After “Monty,” Law will be free to develop his own film productions at Fox.

“Monty” the musical will be directed by Jack O’Brien from a script adapted by Tony-winning playwright Terrence McNally.

“Monty” is scheduled to open April 15 in San Diego and to move from there to two other cities. The production is scheduled to open on Broadway during the first week of October.

Under Law’s four-year tenure Searchlight has been a key player in the specialty arena, with a few remarkable hits including “The Full Monty” and “Waking Ned Devine.” “Slums of Beverly Hills” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream” performed solidly, although last year’s “Dreaming of Joseph Lees,” “Best Laid Plans” and “20 Dates” failed to find much of an audience.

Searchlight’s current release, “Boys Don’t Cry,” has won a slew of award noms, including a Golden Globe Best Actress nom for Hilary Swank.

Under Law, Searchlight evolved from an emphasis on acquisitions to a focus on projects developed in-house.

Certainly the most prominent film of Law’s tenure commercially was the $3.5 million “The Full Monty,” which brought in a prodigious $256.4 million worldwide to make it the most profitable film of 1997. The pic was nominated for four Oscars, taking home the Oscar for comedy score.

From 1980 to 1995, Law was the driving force behind American Playhouse where he was executive producer since its inception and president since 1993. During his tenure there and with Playhouse Intl. Pictures, an indie shingle created as an off-shoot of American Playhouse, he oversaw indie pics such as “El Norte,” “The Thin Blue Line,” “Safe” and “Stand and Deliver.”

Upcoming pics from Fox Searchlight include “The Closer You Get,” produced by Uberto Pasolini; “Woman on Top,” starring Penelope Cruz; “Bootmen,” starring Adam Garcia; and “Quills” starring Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Kane and directed Philip Kaufman; and “Sexy Beast,” starring Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley.

(Paul F. Duke contributed to this report).

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