Ving wings way to indie pic ‘Animal’

Producer-thesp will star as a felon trying to go straight

Ving Rhames and Kip Konwiser have launched a deal to produce films together, beginning with “Animal,” a gritty urban drama that stars Rhames.

David Burke directs the film that has begun shooting in Puerto Rico; David C. Johnson (“Woo”) wrote the script.

Rhames plays a violent felon nicknamed Animal, who is released from prison on a technicality. Led to reconsider the futility of the life he is leading, Animal tries to go straight to keep his son from following in his footsteps. Terrence Dashon Howard (“Ray”) plays the son; Chazz Palminteri and Jim Brown are inmates. Wes Studi, Beverly Todd, Faizon Love and Paula Jai Parker also star.

Burke most recently wrapped “Edison” with Morgan Freeman, Justin Timberlake, LL Cool J and Kevin Spacey. Helmer is best known for exec-producing such series as “Wiseguy.”

Rhames, who recently was set to play the title character in a new series version of “Kojak,” is taking his role as producer seriously; he provided initial financing to get the picture off the ground.

He and Konwiser, who’s best known for producing “Miss Evers’ Boy,” drew production financing from DEJ, the Blockbuster subsidiary most recently involved in co-financing “Monster.”

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