Williamson shifts focus to U shingle

Move takes effect after fall pix released

Glenn Williamson will step down as Focus Features’ president of production and launch his own production shingle, which remains tied to the Universal specialty division via a first-look deal.

The production exec will transition to hands-on producing over the next few months, after following Focus’ fall releases through completion. These include Christine Jeffs’ “Sylvia,” with Gwyneth Paltrow, and Michel Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet.

No replacement has been named, but an outside appointment is more likely than a promotion from within. The new hire may be New York-based.

“I love working and collaborating with filmmakers and talent, and there are a number of projects at Focus which I feel so strongly about that I realized now was the time to make the transition from executive to producer,” Williamson said.

Focus projects on which Williamson will step in as producer include “Truth, Justice and the American Way,” a Paul Bernbaum-scripted story about the death of TV superman George Reeves to be directed by Allen Coulter that may shoot before the end of this year; and “The Ice Harvest,” based on Scott Phillips’ darkly comic thriller novel about a sleazy Kansas lawyer embezzling money from sex bars. Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger are attached to produce the latter project with Williamson. Robert Benton and Richard Russo penned the adaptation, which is expected to shoot at the earliest at the beginning of next year.

“Glenn demonstrates great instincts and taste on each and every project,” Focus co-prexys David Linde and James Schamus said in a statement. “As a hands-on producer of several of our priority projects, we look forward to working with him just as much if not more than we already do.”

‘Heaven,’ ‘Eva’ credits

During his tenure since the inception of Focus, Williamson, who was hired by Scott Greenstein under the former USA Films banner, oversaw development and production on pics including Todd Haynes’ “Far From Heaven”; Gary Hardwick’s “Deliver Us From Eva”; and Mira Nair’s “Vanity Fair,” now shooting in Britain with Reese Witherspoon.

Williamson segued to the production prexy role at Focus when USA Films was absorbed into the Universal unit.

Before August 2001, Williamson had been a senior production exec at DreamWorks since it was founded in 1994. During that time, he brought in Alan Ball’s spec script for “American Beauty” and oversaw production on the Sam Mendes-helmed Oscar winner. He also brought in and supervised Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous.”

Before leaving DreamWorks, Williamson oversaw development of Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me if You Can.”

Williamson’s unnamed production company will remain based on the Universal lot. Company will be hiring a development exec to shepherd both specialty and more mainstream fare to be produced by the shingle.

“I started off working for Walter (Parkes) and Laurie (MacDonald) when they had a small deal at Columbia and I feel very much like I am getting back to that with my own deal,” said Williamson.

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