Artisan taps New Line vet to head prod’n

Saperstein impresses CEO with 'written word' skills

Artisan Pictures, which has revamped under CEO Bob Cooper to become an aggressive buyer of genre material, has named Richard Saperstein president of development and production. Saperstein, a former ICM lit agent, spent nine years as an exec at New Line, rising to the level of senior executive vice president.

“Aside from his contacts with writers and filmmakers, what impressed me about Richard was that he is spectacular when it comes to the written word, with a great knowledge of writing and story,” Cooper said. “Those qualities always served me well at HBO and elsewhere.

“I was also impressed that he was at New Line when they were searching for where they should fit in, and what niches were open to them, long before they became more mainstream. That replicates exactly where I am now, and I can benefit from him doing that kind of work here.

“I’ve always sought out strong people to work with me,” Cooper continued, “and had Hutch Parker and Jenno Topping at HBO, Amy Baer at TriStar and Glenn Williamson and Adam Goodman at DreamWorks. He fits the mold of strong people who have helped keep me out of trouble when I’ve veered off the path we want to be on.”

Cooper and Saperstein’s mission will be to assemble a slate of scripts that are stylish and distinctive, but can be made for a price.

Staying ‘outside clutter’

“We cannot compete with studios paying $20 million for stars and $100 million budgets, but we will compete on risky ideas that stand outside the clutter,” Cooper said.

“We’ll be looking for fresh, distinctive material with crossover appeal and franchise potential,” Saperstein said. “We’ll also be very energetic in our pursuit of quality material such as ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Wag the Dog,’ both of which were made for under $20 million.”

Working closely with Michael De Luca at New Line, Saperstein was involved in such films as “Seven,” “Frequency” and “John Q,” all the kind of distinctive films that would fit perfectly into Artisan’s game plan.

Artisan’s fast-forming development slate includes a joint venture for films with Marvel Enterprises, which starts with the Ray Park starrer “Iron Fist,” and films such as the Will Rokos-scripted remake of the British film “Billy Liar,” a black comedy about a pathological underachiever who lies about his life rather than expend any effort. Peyton Reed (“Bring it On”) has been working with Rokos (“Monster’s Ball”) and might come aboard to direct the film.

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