Thesp to develop projects in which he will produce and/or star

Following their recent collaboration on “Gangs of New York,” Leonardo DiCaprio has signed a three-year, first-look production deal with “Gangs” co-financier Initial Entertainment Group.

With IEG and his new Los Angeles-based production company, Appian Way, DiCaprio will develop projects in which he will serve as producer and/or star.

Under the terms of the nonexclusive deal, IEG will fully finance and co-produce films with Appian, cover the company’s overhead costs and provide an undisclosed discretionary fund for development on a project-by-project basis. IEG will retain international rights to the pics.

DiCaprio will head Appian Way as its CEO, while Cynthia Biamon — who manages DiCaprio at AMG with Rick Yorn — will serve as chief operating officer and oversee the company and its development slate. New shingle plans to hire a development staff that will include a New York-based book scout. No projects have yet been identified under the deal.

Deal is significant for IEG, which has become a prominent backer of top-level product following the Oscar-winning box-office hit “Traffic,” co-financed with USA Films, as well as Michael Mann’s upcoming “Ali,” co-financed with Columbia Pictures.

IEG also has an exclusive inhouse production deal with Milkwood Films, the production company headed by “Traffic” star Catherine Zeta-Jones. IEG and Miramax Films are currently developing the period drama “Smoke and Mirrors,” with Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas attached to star.

“This is an amazing deal for IEG,” CEO Graham King told Daily Variety: “We weren’t looking for a vanity deal and we haven’t made one. Leo is one of the number-one actors in the world and to have us involved with him and his projects is a lucrative and exciting prospect. Leo is very serious about it, and what he wants to do in the future meshes well with our business plan.”

IEG and Miramax most recently co-financed the upcoming Martin Scorsese period drama “Gangs,” in which DiCaprio stars opposite Cameron Diaz, Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson. Pic is slated for a December release stateside.

DiCaprio’s deal was brokered by Yorn and attorney Steve Warren with IEG’s Colin Cotter.

DiCaprio is attached to topline DreamWorks’ “Catch Me If You Can,” the story of Frank Abagnale, the youngest man to make the FBI’s most wanted list for forgery. Pic is currently seeking an A-list helmer, with both Steven Spielberg and Cameron Crowe mentioned as contenders.

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