Saturn sets into orbits with spirited film slate

Co. bows with 'Vampire'

Through his acting career, Nicolas Cage has covered a wide range of roles, but no matter how eclectic his choices have been, he knew there was something he wouldn’t be able to do through acting.

“I always felt that I had an eye for talent, and as an actor I really couldn’t access that, I was responsible for managing my own abilities,” he says. “I was interested in finding ways to put talented people together.”

For example, Cage had worked with both Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich, but they had never worked with each other. Cage wanted to see that happen.

“It’s a little like inviting people to a party, finding who would be interesting together,” he says.

The solution was Saturn Films, Cage’s production company, which is on its feet as a legitimate production company four years after its founding, and ready to launch an ambitious and diverse slate.

“I saw Saturn Films as a safe haven for actors,” says Cage. “It’s an actor-driven company, where performers can find material that’s a little bit unusual, that studios might be wary of. It’s a laboratory for actors, really.”

Saturn, which is six months into a two-year, first-look deal with Intermedia, does look for acting projects for Cage, of course.

“Having a company gives Nic to shepherd projects along instead of being reactive to what others in the marketplace are creating,” explains Saturn’s president, Norman Golightly. “It gives us a chance to start from square one and say ‘Let’s make this happen.'”

But Saturn wants to do more than feed Cage’s acting career.

“I think this company is born out of Nic’s love of film,” says Golightly. “We’re striving to find films that are a combination of good entertainment, thought-provoking and entertaining films. We see ourselves as a cutting-edge company, working with both established filmmakers and cutting-edge, new filmmakers.

“We pride ourselves on thinking out of the box,” continues Golightly. “We choose our projects first and only decide later whether Nic will act in them.”

Saturn’s first film was “Shadow of the Vampire,” which paired Dafoe and Malkovich onscreen.

“It was a perfect blend of horror and comedy and a perfect way to launch the company,” says Golightly, and the film has made a splash, garnering Oscar noms for makeup and supporting actor (Dafoe).

Among the many projects in the works at Saturn are:

  • “The Life of David Gale” — Alan Parker is set to direct Charles Randolph’s thriller about a death penalty foe who is sent to death row for the murder of another activist. George Clooney will star.

  • “Tom Slick — Monster Hunter” is loosely based on the life of eccentric 1940s oil magnate and inventor Tom Slick, who spent his spare time hunting the likes of the Loch Ness Monster and the Abominable Snowman. “It’s Indiana Jones meets the Coen brothers,” says Golightly.

  • “Press Your Luck” is described as a comedic Rocky in the world of gameshows. The script, by Howard Franklin, is based on the true story of a down-on-his luck Ohio man who discovered how to beat a TV gameshow.

  • “Chain,” written by Gregory Small and Richard Blaney, is a revenge story about a man who comes back in a new persona to wreak revenge on a treacherous motorcycle gang. John Rice will direct the movie, set up at Lions Gate.

  • Jonathan Mostow will helm an untitled family drama, formerly known as “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” to be produced by Saturn in association with Eagle Cove Entertainment and Mostow-Lieberman. The film is set up at Warner Brothers.

  • “Iron Man,” the life story of Olympic athlete and war hero Lou Zamperini, is in development at Universal and being written by Robert Schenkkan.

  • “Heartbreaker,” written by Jeremy Miller and Dan Cohn, based on a story created by Cage, is romantic dramedy focusing on a man who hires himself out to break women’s hearts and drive them back to their old flames.

  • “The Bitter End,” a romantic comedy, will be written and directed by Slamdance winner Heidi Van Lier.

    The offbeat slate and youthful energy at Saturn has made producing a pleasure for Cage.

“I’ve been allowed to surround myself with creative people even when I’m not acting. I get stimulated by exciting people who are passionate about their crafts, passionate about filmmaking, have ideas and are free thinkers,” he says. “That kind of keeps me sharp as an actor as well. I’m able to stay passionate because I’m around passionate people.”

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