Gaylord Films has fast-tracked the Sandra Bullock comedy “The List” by hiring “Liar Liar” scribes Paul Guay and Steve Mazur to rewrite the script, and it has set up “Dog Show” as a comic vehicle for Matthew McConaughey.
Both projects will be done in partnership with Warner Bros., where Gaylord last fall signed a four-year deal to co-finance and produce 10 films.
“The List” will likely be next in production after Guay and Mazur were hired in a high six-figure against low-seven figure fee. The Summit Talent Agency-repped scribes most recently scripted the MGM comedy “Heartbreakers,” and will redraft a comedy originated by Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott about a woman who tries to become her boyfriend’s ideal woman, based on his wish list.
Hunt Lowry is producing the film with Bullock’s Fortis Films and Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sanford.
McConaughey will play a Texas rancher thrust into an upper-crust world in “Dog Show,” the comedy being written by Dean Lorey (“Major Payne”). “He has the world’s smartest dog and enters him in the top dog shows, the incentive being that he needs money to save his ranch,” said Lowry.
In both the Bullock and McConaughey films, WB and Gaylord partner 50-50 in financing the projects.
Hatched as an offshoot of Gaylord Entertainment by its chairman, E.K. Gaylord II, and Lowry, Gaylord Films also includes the specialty film and international sales company Pandora, whose prexy, Shebnem Askin, just relocated from Paris to the Warner Bros. lot.
Since last fall, Gaylord and Pandora have combined to put five films into production. Gaylord Films is in production on the Callie Khouri-directed “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” with Bullock and Ashley Judd. Pandora has the WB projects “A Walk To Remember,” “White Oleander” and “Welcome to Collinwood,” as well as the comedy “Company Man,” the latter of which is near a distribution deal.
The activities of Gaylord and Pandora mark the most ambitious Hollywood infiltration in two decades by Gaylord Ent., which dabbled in southern-flavored fare like “Hee-Haw” and some “Bonanza” sequel telepics. After Lowry got solid producing credits on films like “A Time to Kill,” “The Kid” and “Last of the Mohicans,” Gaylord decided to get his corporation back in the game.
Lowry made the introduction to WB toppers Alan Horn and Lorenzo di Bonaventura and the Tennessee-based Gaylord has in six months become a major Hollywood player, with Casey La Scala just named Gaylord head of production, Stacey Cohen exec veep and Paul Federbush to veep of acquisitions and production.
“We learned that first time around that without a distribution partner like Warner Bros., this business is like wildcatting for oil wells, much too risky,” said Gaylord. “When we came in, Warner Bros. said, Here’s our slate, what would you like to do? Hunt picked films that appealed to us, some that were far along in development and all of which were quality and classy. WB took domestic distribution on three of four of the Pandora films, which eliminated a lot of our risk and added a premium to our foreign sales effort.”
BYPASSING ‘GALE’: The electric chair is temporarily empty in “The Life of David Gale,” the Alan Parker-directed drama about a capital punishment foe facing death row after a murder conviction. George Clooney had a deal to play the title character, but has parted company with the film over creative issues.
MASK OFF ‘PHANTOM’: After years of high hopes, the curtain is finally going to be raised on the movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” at Warner Bros. A new script’s been done by Ben Elton, Lloyd Webber’s collaborator on the stage musical “The Beautiful Game.” Lloyd Webber has written some new songs for the film, and held a “sing through” last week in London, an event attended by Shekhar Kapur, who’s expected to helm the film. Since bowing in 1987, the stage musical has grossed $3 billion in theaters around the world.
RACKING UP ACCOLADES: After making 46 classy films in a 40-year partnership, Merchant Ivory Productions partners Ismail Merchant and James Ivory might be on course to set a record for lifetime awards. The duo just got its 38th such honor last weekend at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, where the fest screened their latest offering, the Lion’s Gate-distribbed “The Golden Bowl.” “It’s nice to be living while still getting these awards,” said Merchant, who has also received two doctorate degrees, with Ivory getting one and scripter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala getting a doctorate along with 50 awards herself. “We’ve endured because we respect each other, we respect the writers, and there’s no ego involved.”
They show no signs of slowing. Merchant just directed “Mystic Masseur,” an adaptation of the V.S. Naipaul novel, with the film being edited in hopes of being ready for the Venice Film Festival. Ivory is directing “Le Divorce,” from the Diane Johnson novel, for Fox Searchlight, penned by Ivory and Jhabvala, to shoot in France this September, about two American sisters, one getting a divorce from a Frenchman.
John Allen, longtime editor for Merchant Ivory fare, makes his directorial debut with “Heights,” scripted by Amy Fox based on her one-act play “Insomnia in New York.” MIP is also readying “The Man Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag,” a Paul Theroux-scripted drama based on a Jim Corbett novella about a hunter tracking a leopard in the Himalayas who finds the tables turned.
Finally, Ivory is developing “Movie Slaves,” a comedy based on his own idea that sounds like the film biz’s answer to “Survivor.” Said Merchant: “It’s a comedy about two groups of filmmakers, one English and one American, marooned on an island. There are many cultural differences between the two. Jim will direct after he writes it with Ruth.”