Mouse picks up penguin photog pic 'Zehnder'

CANNES — Disney has picked up distrib rights in North America, U.K., Australia and New Zealand to Richard Gere starrer “Emperor Zehnder,” produced by National Geographic Feature Films and Hyde Park Entertainment.

Pic is based on the adventures of Bruno Zehnder, a photographer who died in 1996 in Antarctica pursuing his lifelong fascination with Emperor penguins and their familial habits.

Gregory Hoblit, who directed Gere in “Primal Fear,” will direct pic, penned by Daniel Bernstein and Vanity Fair writer-turned-scribe Ned Zeman, adapted from Zeman’s article.

Taking plunge

Pic will start shooting in October in the Antarctic and will use BBC cameramen for underwater footage.

Adam Schroeder, who found and developed the story, will produce with Jake Eberts, chairman of National Geographic Feature Films; Christine Whitaker, president of production for NGFF; and Hyde Park’s Ashok Amritraj.

Disney, Hyde Park and National Geographic are co-financing pic, which internationally will be released through Hyde Park’s output deals in continental Europe, South Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and Israel. Hyde Park has an overall production and co-financing deal with Disney; “Zehnder” would fall under that arrangement.

Pic reteams Eberts with the studio after they paired on Kevin Costner’s Western “Open Range,” which is screening Saturday in the Cannes market.

‘House’ team

Hyde Park and Disney most recently teamed on Adam Shankman’s hit comedy “Bringing Down the House,” starring Steve Martin and Queen Latifah.

They also are pairing on an adaptation of Martin’s novella “Shopgirl” for helmer Anand Tucker, as well as “Raising Helen,” starring Kate Hudson and John Corbett, for helmer Garry Marshall.

Gere is negotiating to star in “Sleepwalker,” Intermedia’s remake of the Swedish-Norwegian thriller about a sleepwalking man who fears he is responsible for the sudden disappearance of his family (Daily Variety, May 15).

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