Indie ‘Noel’ home for holidays

Starry trio set for Hubbard-penned Yule pic

Paul Walker, Susan Sarandon and Penelope Cruz are set to star in “Noel,” a holiday-themed indie drama that marks the feature directorial debut of Chazz Palminteri.

Financing is set from producing, financing and management company Neverland Films. Shooting begins next month in Montreal and New York.

Scripted by David Hubbard, “Noel” follows the intertwining lives of several jaded Manhattanites moved by the magic of the Christmas season to rise above the problems they face. Palminteri may take a role. Pic was developed by producer Howard Rosenman with Palminteri; Veep Jim Mulay brought the script to Neverland partners Al Corley, Bart Rosenblatt and Eugene Musso. That trio will produce the pic with Rosenman. Hubbard script has a holiday appeal without being overly sentimental.

Walkerliked the script so much that he had his ICM and Nine Yards reps rearrange his schedule to fit the film in before he stars in the MGM/Mandalay drama “Into the Blue” opposite Jessica Alba, with John Stockwell directing. Several other stars are expected to join the ensemble.

Neverland controls world rights for “Noel,” which will be ready for a holiday 2004 release. Distrib deals will be made by exec producer Jonathan Dana.

Neverland recently drafted Rick Berg to hatch its management division. Company has financed “Palmetto” and “Drowning Mona” and the just-wrapped Gavin Grazer-directed “Scorched.”ICM repped Sarandon and CAA repped Cruz, with W&A repping Hubbard.

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