A Killer bill

Gotham indie sells starry slate in Cannes

New York-based independent production stable Killer Films hit Cannes this weekend to shop its new slate, including the directing debut of Mark Ruffalo, a Meg Ryan vehicle, a film from legit helmer Scott Elliott with Sarah Jessica Parker attached to star, and a classic kid-lit adaptation to be directed by Agnieszka Holland, which reps the company’s first step into family films.

Killer also has locked key cast and expects to close financing in Cannes on designer Isaac Mizrahi’s directing bow, “The Extra Man,” adapted by Keith Bunin from the Jonathan Ames novel. Christopher Plummer will star in the comedy as a professional walker of well-heeled Upper East Side matrons, with Jason Biggs as the young protege he takes under his wing.

Elliott (“A Map of the World”) will direct Parker in “The Good Life,” adapted from Keith Scribner’s novel, which is based on the true story of a middle-class New Jersey couple’s botched kidnapping of the president of Exxon.

Ruffalo will step behind the camera with a drama provisionally titled “Sympathy for Delicious.” Scripted by Chris Thornton, who also will star with Nicolas Cage, the autobiographical story centers on a wheelchair-bound Los Angeles scratch DJ with faith-healing capabilities who is unable to heal himself.

Holland is set to direct “All-of-a-Kind Family,” adapted by Matthew Weiss from Sydney Taylor’s children’s books, a series that has never been out of print in the U.S. since it was first published in the 1950s. Turn-of-the-century stories center on a Jewish family with five young daughters on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Ryan will star in “Expecting Adam,” based on Martha Beck’s memoir. Story concerns an ambitious woman and her husband on the academic fast track at Harvard. During her pregnancy, she discovers the child she is carrying has Down syndrome, forcing a tough decision. Ryan and Tim Shriver brought the project to Killer. Shriver will team with the company to produce.

‘Dust’ in Oklahoma

Also on the production slate is “Seasons of Dust,” a Depression-era Dust Bowl road movie/love story set in Oklahoma, scheduled to shoot next spring, with Tim Blake Nelson directing. Killer previously produced Nelson’s “The Grey Zone.”

Killer also has attached David Gordon Green to adapt and direct Brad Land’s memoir “Goat,” about violence, masculinity, brotherhood and fraternity hazing (Variety, May 14).

The production shingle is looking for a director on “Missing Persons,” scripted by Daniel Bernstein and Ned Zeman. It’s based on the latter’s Vanity Fair article about the Bobby Durst case, in which the eccentric real estate developer fell for a working-class tenant in one of his buildings and allegedly killed her. Project was developed at Arnold Rifkin’s Cheyenne Enterprises, which will produce with Killer.

“Killer movies are going to be all over the place this year,” said company principal Christine Vachon. “This year feels very ambitious for us. I’m happiest when I’ve got a movie coming out, a movie in post-production and a movie shooting, which is where I am now.

“There are directors on their second or third movie with us, like Mary Harron and Tim Blake Nelson, and others like Mark Ruffalo we’re working with for the first time,” she continued. “That mix is part of our formula and really helps shape what we do.”

Making ‘connection’

“We’re strongly committed to making movies we feel a real connection to,” added fellow Killer principal Pamela Koffler. “Some of these projects are suited to bigger budgets, but we’ll also continue to do the smaller movies as well that are closer to where we started as a company.”

The new slate signals the continuing growth of Killer, which has four features wrapping production or nearing release this year. Those include Elliott’s helming debut, “A Home at the End of the World” starring Colin Farrell and to be released July 23 via Warner Independent Pictures; and John Waters’ “A Dirty Shame,” bowing through New Line in the fall.

Killer paired for the first time this year with HBO Films on two projects: “The Ballad of Bettie Page,” directed by Mary Harron and starring Gretchen Mol, which wraps shooting this month; and newcomer Phyllis Nagy’s “Mrs. Harris,” with Annette Bening and Ben Kingsley, now in post. No decision has yet been made as to whether those projects will go out theatrically or premiere on HBO.

Killer is casting “Every Word Is True,” Douglas McGrath’s drama about the relationship between Truman Capote and “In Cold Blood” murderer Perry Smith, to be financed and distributed by Warner Independent.

Boosting development

The increase in book and magazine article properties coming together on the Killer slate reflects the company’s expanded development team. Producer Jocelyn Hayes, who heads development, is now flanked by coordinator Chika Chukudebelu, formerly with New Line.

“She’s breathed even more life into our already bulging development slate,” said Vachon.

Third principal at Killer is Katie Roumel. The company is financed by John Wells, who serves as exec producer on all Killer projects and was instrumental in setting up the production house’s first-look deal with Warner.

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