New Line for honcho on hobbits

Ordesky promoted to exec VP

Mark Ordesky is moving from chief of Fine Line to a key role at parent New Line, with all the production executives reporting directly to him.

Ordesky, the executive behind New Line’s “Lord of the Rings” juggernaut, assumes the title of executive VP and chief operating officer of New Line.

He will continue to report to Toby Emmerich, New Line’s president and CEO.

Emmerich said New Line would continue to produce 10-15 films per year while Fine Line will generate 3-6 titles.

“The whole idea behind this move is to provide Toby with some operational muscle and support,” said Ordesky.

Emmerich told Daily Variety, “The decisions about what movies I’m going to take to Bob (Shaye) and Michael (Lynne) is still my responsibility, but it’s helpful to have someone managing my production executives. Helping those people manage those projects and carry them down the field is a big task.

” I realize that I want to focus more on the bigger picture of what’s on the slate, what are the 12 movies a year to manage,” he said. “He’s very respected here and I think he’ll be a great person to help my people.”

Power enhanced

While Ordesky has dropped the Fine Line prexy title, he retains full operational control over that division. Indeed, his new gig gives him greater power to nurture the kind of projects that Fine Line is keen to handle, such as Jonathan Glazer’s “Birth,” starring Nicole Kidman.

“Fine Line has a mandate to pursue filmmakers like Jonathan Glazer, Lars von Trier, Alexander Payne and Atom Egoyan,” Ordesky said. “It’s good to have a group of executives with a dedicated mission to find and build projects around directors like these.”

While “Birth” got its start as a Fine Line project, it will likely go out under the New Line label. Nonetheless, Ordesky said Fine Line has moved away from being an acquisitions-based company and will continue to focus more on developing its own projects.

“Films like ‘American Splendor’ and ‘Hedwig’ are going to benefit from the TLC boutique approach to marketing and distribution that Fine Line can provide,” Ordesky said. “But when you do a $23 million film like ‘Birth,’ which potentially could reach a broader audience, it would be foolish not to take advantage of the wider New Line distribution structure, in the same way we did for a similar kind of upscale sophisticated adult film like ‘About Schmidt.’ ”

‘Splendor’ captured

Key upcoming Fine Line projects include the release of Sundance winner “American Splendor,” which the shingle will do in conjunction with HBO Films. The biopic is being positioned for a Cannes slot, possibly in the Directors Fortnight.

On the production front, Fine Line is readying “M’Lady,” to be produced and directed by Eriq LaSalle, and “I Was Amelia Earhart,” a blend of history and fiction that looks at the life of the famed aviatrix and her ill-fated attempt to fly around the world. Julianne Moore at one time was attached to the project, which now has French helmer Jean-Jacques Beineix on board to direct.

Also in development at Fine Line is an adaptation of Umberto Eco’s novel, “Foucault’s Pendulum,” and a remake of George Cukor’s “The Women,” to be written and directed by “Murphy Brown” creator Diane English, with Annette Bening and Helen Hunt in discussions to star.

Propelled by big year

Ordesky’s move comes after New Line’s most successful year in its history. Key to earning more than $1.8 billion worldwide at the 2002 B.O. was the theatrical and DVD performance of the first two films in the LOTR trilogy.

A hardcore fan of the J.R.R. Tolkien novel, Ordesky acted as New Line’s conduit on the enormous production. The first two installments earned a combined gross of over $1.7 billion worldwide and 19 Oscar nominations. Final pic in the trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” is due in theaters this December.

“All that time spent in Middle Earth gave me skills I didn’t have before in terms of understanding how a really big movie runs or in this case, three really big movies,” Ordesky said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity for this six-year education.”

Script reader start

Ordesky’s New Line career began more than a decade ago as a script reader, which led to disparate assignments such as managing the company’s relationship with John Waters to introducing Jackie Chan to U.S. audiences with “Rumble in the Bronx.”

In 1997, he became head of Fine Line Features and developed relationships with iconoclastic filmmakers such as Bernardo Bertolucci, Lars Von Trier and David Mamet. The company releases include the acquisitions “Shine,” “Saving Grace,” “Before Night Falls,” “Tumbleweeds” and “The Sweet Hereafter.”

“Mark has made an extraordinary contribution to this company,” Emmerich said. “His commitment to Peter Jackson and the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy has been unwavering. He is a great executive whose energy and dedication will help ensure both the quality and success of our films as we continue to build New Line Productions’ slate.”

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