Pact encompasses all L.A., London film prod'n activities

NEW YORK — Consolidating a relationship that yielded the distrib’s first best picture Oscar as well as its chief 2003 awards contender, “Cold Mountain,” Miramax Films has signed a three-year first-look deal with Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella’s production banner Mirage Enterprises.

The announcement was made Sunday by Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, who was in London with Minghella and Pollack for the royal charity premiere of “Cold Mountain.” Based on Charles Frazier’s National Book Award-winning bestseller, the Civil War drama stars Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Renee Zellweger, and will open wide in the U.S. on Christmas Day.

” ‘Cold Mountain’ was one of the best experiences I’ve had making a movie,” Weinstein said. “Having collaborated on Anthony’s last three films and having released five films that Sydney produced, it is certainly time for us to partner.

“They have great taste in material and clearly attract the best talent in the business,” he added. “I am honored to be in business with them for they represent the epitome of filmmaking.”

The first-look deal encompasses all of Los Angeles- and London-based Mirage’s film production-related activities and includes a number of projects already in development for Miramax.

“Miramax has been responsible for releasing some of the most important and ambitious films of the last 20 years,” Minghella said. “Harvey and Bob love cinema, not least the cinema of other countries. They have supported me and championed my work with real passion. I’m delighted that Sydney and I can formalize a producing relationship which has existed tacitly for some time.”

In addition to “Cold Mountain,” Miramax successfully released Minghella’s last two films as writer-director, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “The English Patient,” which secured the company its first win of the top Oscar.

“I have had an extraordinarily good experience with Miramax over the past five years,” Pollack added. “Harvey and Bob have a keen eye for original material and take chances with projects that are out of the ordinary. I am very excited that Anthony and I have the opportunity to work with them over the next three years.”

First projects on the fast track to be produced by Pollack and Minghella for the studio are the comedy “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” based on Allison Pearson’s bestselling novel about a woman juggling dual roles as a successful investment banker and a mother; and “The Amulet of Samarkand,” adapted from the first novel in Jonathan Stroud’s “Bartimaeus Trilogy,” which chronicles the life of a young trainee magician and his world-weary Genie in London.

The Pearson adaptation is being scripted by Kevin Wade (“Working Girl”), while Hossein Amini, who previously collaborated with Miramax as screenwriter on “Wings of the Dove,” is adapting “Samarkand.” “Bartimaeus Trilogy” is published by Miramax Books.

Also in development through the Mirage-Miramax union is “The Marrying Game,” being scripted by Lucinda Cox from Kate Saunders’ novel about a long-established but impoverished English family attempting to save their ancestral home by marrying money.

In recent weeks, Pollack and Minghella have been circling joint involvement with Miramax in South African-based producer Amy Moore’s planned adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith’s bestseller, “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” about a female gumshoe in Botswana.

Miramax’s relationship with Mirage began in 1998 on “Sliding Doors,” prior to Minghella’s entry as a partner with Pollack in the company. In addition to Minghella’s own films, other Mirage projects released by Miramax have included “Heaven,” “Iris,” “The Quiet American,” “Blow Dry” and “Birthday Girl.”

The agreement was negotiated for Miramax by co-prexy of production Bob Osher, exec VP of business affairs Steve Hutensky and senior VP of business and legal affairs Eric Roth. Mirage was represented by Barry Tyerman, of Armstrong Hirsch Jackoway Tyerman & Wertheimer, and CAA.

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