Fox locks in Jackman

Thesp plants Seed in industry

Seed Prods., the newly named producing venture headed by Hugh Jackman and John Palermo, has sown a first-look deal at 20th Century Fox.

Pact is an outgrowth of Jackman’s work as the signature “X-Men” character Wolverine, and the deal calls for Seed to steer a David Benioff-scripted spinoff film that Jackman will topline after “X3” wraps.

Jackman and Palermo will produce “Wolverine” with Lauren Shuler Donner and Marvel’s Avi Arad.

Jackman’s wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, will also be a partner in the company, and Seed will develop projects for her to direct. Best known as an actress, she just wrapped “Jindabyne” with Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney; Furness made her directing debut on the short “Standing Room Only,” which starred Jackman.

Fox deal will be separate from a nonexclusive alignment Jackman and Palermo made with Disney and Storyline partners Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to develop tuner vehicles for Jackman, the Tony-winning star of “The Boy From Oz.”

Broad range

Seed will take offices on the Fox lot and will hire staff. Several script deals for features and TV pilots are already in the works, said Palermo, who expects to be an aggressive buyer of material.

“We will be actively searching for broad comedies, romantic comedies and dramas,” Palermo said.

Jackman said that his relationship with Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman Tom Rothman and 20th Century Fox prexy Hutch Parker made the studio the first stop when he and Palermo decided to seek an overall deal. It also didn’t hurt that the parent company is owned by a fellow Aussie.

“They have been supportive throughout my career, particularly since I came to America and made my first film for the studio,” Jackman said. “We came in pitching a company that will be built around films, some starring me and some not. We’ll also do television and we have aspirations to bring Fox into stage productions as well. They seemed as excited as we were.”

“This was a function of forming an intimate, productive relationship and wanting to expand it,” Parker said. “We have been there since the beginning of Hugh’s run and have found John to be energetic and effective. We want to see what they can do in films, TV as well as theater.”

While Jackman hasn’t produced a film yet, he has participated in the behind-the-scenes on “X3.” He got a taste of crisis management when helmer Matthew Vaughn abruptly departed and Brett Ratner was hired to replace him.

“It got to be a roller-coaster ride there, but I wasn’t worried because the script is so strong,” Jackman said. “Matthew had his reasons but helped make the movie better before he left. Brett has come in with a lot of enthusiasm and full understanding of the franchise. It has been a real learning curve, as has been putting together the script on ‘Wolverine.’ That project is a good start for me as producer, because I have intimate knowledge of the character.”

Suiting up

Palermo, who’s an exec producer on “X3,” said Benioff will turn in his first draft shortly.Jackman hopes to test Fox’s resolve to be the next studio going the legit route. Seed will aspire to serve as the studio’s inhouse division for stage projects in the U.S. and Australia.

“It is traditionally tough to get a Broadway show up. That’s why you often see 30 to 40 producers and investors,” Jackman said. “To have one company that believes in you and will bankroll your vision would be a fantastic thing. The right stage shows make money and quite often make good movies.”

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