Red Hour clocks in again with studio

A correction was made to this article on Dec. 14, 2004.

DreamWorks has given Red Hour partners Ben Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld a three-year renewal on their first-look deal. New pact has sweeter terms, but most significantly, it reflects the studio’s determination to make Red Hour a significant pic supplier.

To that end, DreamWorks is mobilizing “Tropic Thunder” as the next film Stiller potentially directs and toplines, based on an original script he wrote with Etan Cohen and Justin Theroux.

Studio has also made a preemptive acquisition of “The Ruins,” a horror novel by “A Simple Plan” author Scott Smith. Red Hour has set Smith to adapt his book, to be published next year.

The first Red Hour project to go into production under the DreamWorks logo will likely be “Date School,” a comedy Red Hour is producing with Contrafilm. Miguel Arteta is directing.

Studio didn’t actually make any Red Hour product under the first deal, and let slip away the sleeper Fox hit “DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story,” as well as “Used Guys,” a comedy set up with Jay Roach to direct and Stiller and Vince Vaughn likely to star.

DreamWorks partner David Geffen and production head Adam Goodman said Stiller and Cornfeld-generated product will become a high priority.

“We’ve seen what magnets they are in attracting material, writers and actors, and we will be counting on them to deliver at least a movie a year for us,” Goodman said. “I’m proud that we got Red Hour to stick around, and we have a real vision of how this company will play out for us over the next couple of years.”

Red Hour is busy on several fronts. After Stiller did an acting stint on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” he’s preparing to direct for the pay web the pilot episode of “Super 8,” a Red Hour-produced coming-of-age series set in New York during the ’70s. Storyline is informed by Stiller’s own early teen years, when he and friends made Super 8 movies all over the city. Series pilot is the first Stiller will direct since “Heat Vision and Jack,” a sitcom that didn’t make it to series despite a cast of Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Christine Taylor. It achieved cult status, though, and Red Hour is developing it as a film at Fox.

Red Hour is also mounting “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline,” Stiller’s true passion project, which is based on a George Saunders novella about the trouble a wimpy administrator gets into when he unwittingly hires a trained killer to stop gangs from terrorizing the patrons of a Civil War theme park. Saunders is adapting the script, and DreamWorks will get first crack at the pic when he is done.

“Tropic Thunder” could be the next directing assignment for Stiller, who’s coming off “Meet the Fockers” and is eager to get back behind the camera for the first time since “Zoolander.” Stiller said the film idea has been rattling around his brain since he went on location to make 1987’s “Empire of the Sun.”

“What started out as a comedy about the hardship of actors having to reintegrate into society after taking the two-week Dale Dye boot camp and filming a war movie has turned into a comedy about five actors who go on location and find themselves relying on their boot camp experiences when they get stuck in a real war-like situation,” Stiller said. He will play one of the actors.

Stiller said he and Cornfeld, who hatched and produced “DodgeBall” as well as “Starsky & Hutch” under the first DreamWorks pact, re-upped partly because of the close relationship they’ve developed with Goodman. It didn’t hurt that the studio made it easy for them to take “DodgeBall” elsewhere when it was clear the studio wouldn’t make it.

“All you can ask for is a quick and honest response, and they made it very doable for us to take that somewhere else,” Stiller said.

Cornfeld said the studio stepped up for the Smith novel even though it was just partly written when the deal was made. Book’s about a group of tourists on a hike that turns into a nightmare.

Goodman said he expects Red Hour to branch out beyond comedy, and that the studio will give Stiller drama scripts he may want to direct.

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