Mechanic diving into ‘Water’

Pic to begin lensing in January, Connelly to star

Capping months of negotiations, helmer Walter Salles is finally set to direct “Dark Water,” a remake of the original 2002 Japanese film by director Hideo Nakata.

Pic marks the first film to be greenlit at Bill Mechanic’s Disney-based Pandemonium shingle, and the first to get a greenlight under Mechanic’s exclusive distribution and P&A pact with Disney. Under the terms of that pact, inked in December 2001, the Mouse House puts up a small share of the production costs plus P&A on Pandemonium’s 20-pic slate.

Announced in September 2000 after he resigned as chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, Mechanic’s Pandemonium is designed to use debt and equity financing secured to fund 15 to 20 movies over the next five years. But Pandemonium’s financing finally and formally took shape only over the past three months.

“Water” is expected to go before cameras in January, lensing in New York and Toronto. Oscar-winning thesp Jennifer Connelly (“Hulk”) is attached to star.

Story of “Dark Water” revolves around a mother and daughter who escape an ugly custody battle with the girl’s father by retreating to a dilapidated apartment building. Instead of finding solace, though, they are haunted by the ghost of a young girl whose family used to live there.

Endeavor-repped Salles recently directed the Spanish-lingo pic “The Motorcycle Diaries,” based on the diaries of Che Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado about their trip across Latin America in 1952. Now in post-production, pic was financed and produced by FilmFour and co-produced by Robert Redford’s South Fork Pictures, and stars Gael Garcia Bernal.

Salles’ other credits include the Brazilian pics “Central Station” and “Behind the Sun,” both lensed in Portuguese.

Meanwhile, Nakata himself is also about to make his English language debut. He is attached to helm “True Believers” at MGM, with the studio recently making a pay-or-play offer to Japanese horror helmer. More, remakes of Nakata’s Japanese-lingo pics are springing up all over: Besides the Pandemonium pact for “Water,” Nakata’s 1999 pic “Kaosu” (“Chaos”) has been set up at U, and DreamWorks Pictures is readying a sequel to its own remake of Nakata’s 1998 suspenser, “The Ring.”

DreamWorks released the English-lingo remake of “The Ring” last year, under the helm of Gore Verbinski. That pic grossed more than $128 million domestically and took in an additional $46 million overseas.

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