Gold Circle, which co-financed “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” to cash cow status, is now ready to turn loose big fat film journo Jiminy Glick on next week’s Toronto Film Festival.
Martin Short is set to play Glick in the feature comedy “Lalawood,” a film directed by Vadim Jean from a script written by Short, Michael Short and Paul Flaherty.
Like Short’s Comedy Central chat show “Primetime Glick,” the fest footage will be largely improvisational and will supplement a murder mystery plot. After five days of shooting next week, “Lalawood” will lense the bulk of its scenes on Vancouver soundstages in January, after Short completes his new season of talkshows and before he joins Jason Alexander onstage in L.A. in “The Producers.”
The pic’s being produced by Short, Bernie Brillstein, Peter Safran and Gold Circle president Paul Brooks, the latter of whom is financing. Brooks hopes the pic will follow the template established by “Wedding.” The $5 million “Wedding” is moving swiftly toward the $100 million gross mark and gigantic profits for Gold Circle and its partners, Playtone and HBO Films.
Short got the idea for “Lalawood” after stopping briefly at the festival, observing the hype frenzy and realizing his bloated blowhard alter ego would fit quite well there. “There was so much intensity in the lobby of the Four Seasons hotel, it was like a microcosm of Hollywood in a nutshell,” Short recalled. “There were 85 celebrities, thousands of agents and publicists, all selling. It’s a good venue for Jiminy to venture out of his Butte, Mont., TV station to attend.” It will also be an opportunity to grab pic-promoting celebs for impromptu cameos.
“It will have that element of ‘The Player,’ but it is also an homage to ‘Laura’ and so many other films as it goes from an improvised movie into a plot-driven abstract mystery,” said Short, who drafted his former “Saturday Night Live” colleague Jan Hooks to play his wife. Because of the guerilla nature of the film, the svelte Short will be required to roam the festival proceedings in full costume. “I’ll accept the suffering for the art or whatever it is that I do,” said Short, whose writing partners will be involved in a producing capacity.
WHETHER GLICK FINDS A FEATURE NICHE is a gamble Brooks relishes taking, as long as the price is around $5 million. This is the fourth pic he’s quickly put together with Brillstein-Grey’s Safran. Safran reps “Wedding” writer-star Nia Vardalos, whose one-woman play that was championed by Rita Wilson and Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman. Project moved forward when Gold Circle committed to $2.5 million of its budget and ponied up the P&A.
Safran also reps former “Wings” star Thomas Hayden Church, who just wrapped directing and starring in the Gold Circle-financed road comedy “Rolling Kansas.” Safran and producer David Permut then teamed with Brooks on “Dys-Funk-Tional Family,” an Eddie Griffin movie that combines Griffin’s standup comedy with cinema verite footage of his quirky Kansas City family. The pic became the subject of a bidding battle won by Miramax, which will likely bow the film next spring.
“We felt like each film had a very distinctive character,” said Brooks, a vet of British production and distribution who was consulting for Gold Circle when he was recruited 18 months ago by Gold Circle owner and Gateway Computer co-founder Norm Waitt.
“Nia was just electric, Tom Church is cool, Eddie Griffin reminds me of Richard Pryor,” Brooks said. “And we think Martin’s got such a handle on that Glick character that this could be a wonderful film.”
Now that Gold Circle’s flush with the promise of “Wedding” revenue, Brooks has some pricier pics in the offing — the Nicolas Cage-directed “Sonny” is one — but is committed to what he calls “the independent multiplex movie.” That means he won’t risk those winnings on big bets like the one Artisan made on a “Blair Witch Project” sequel.
“I’ve seen enough equity corpses piled up in the last 10 years to be cautious,” he said. “I’m a conservative Englishman who’s out to protect Norm’s investment by finding projects that have a potentially exciting upside and a very manageable downside.”
THE EXTREME EXAMPLE is “Wedding,” which, Brooks swears, was always designed to peak around Labor Day, even though it opened 20 weeks ago in mid-April. “We always thought of Labor Day weekend as our opener, but there was no way we’d walk in and get 1,600 screens,” he said. “We put it out hoping audiences would embrace it, knowing that it wouldn’t get screens committed to blockbusters. We’d get splashed each week but recover.” The initial 108 screens has swelled beyond 1,600, a number Brooks said will grow until “Red Dragon” bows in early October. “The $140 million ‘Blair Witch’ gross is the record, and trying to pin where this will end is difficult,” Brooks said.