Barris bio logjam frees up thesps, helmer

Johnny Depp, George Clooney and helmer Bryan Singer are again in play for pre-strike assignments with the eleventh-hour dissolution of the Renaissance Films-Mad Chance production “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” which is now on hold for a post-strike start.

Miramax Films has been negotiating for the pic for the past two weeks, but difficulties arose when the company wanted to take over the production rather than handle only domestic and discrete foreign rights.

Another “Confessions” logjam came down to completion bonds and production insurance. The production’s insurers require that it be completed by June 1, providing a four-week buffer between the end of production and the start of the potential actors’ strike. However, Renaissance was unable to close the financing in time to accommodate both that deadline as well as the 65-day shooting schedule.

Artisan re-engages

Among the suitors now interested in handling the film for North America is Artisan Entertainment, which had dropped out when the domestic bids rose above $8 million.

“Renaissance and all the supporters of ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,’ including CAA, WMA and Lichter, Grossman, Nichols & Adler, have all put an enormous amount of work into making ‘Confessions’ close before the strike,” said Renaissance Films joint managing director Angus Finney. “However, the timing was too tight to be able to close the film financing structure, so the film had to be postponed in order to do Charlie Kaufman’s script justice.”

Depp was to star in “Confessions,” a biopic based on the autobiography of Chuck Barris, the host of “The Gong Show” who claimed to moonlight as a CIA spook. Clooney was to portray CIA recruiting agent Jim Byrd.

Pic is budgeted in the $30 million to $35 million range, with Renaissance holding international rights. Rand Ravich will serve as executive producer on the project with Renaissance’s joint managing directors Stephen Evans and Finney.

Renaissance’s inability to close the pic’s financing in time is just the latest stumbling block in the long-running saga of “Confessions,” a project that has spent a decade attracting admirers but falling short on patrons willing to pull the trigger.

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