Par’s power play

Grey parlays Scorsese as drawing card

Wooed by Brad Grey and enjoying the biggest commercial success of his career, Martin Scorsese has inked a four-year first-look deal with Paramount Pictures to direct and produce films, TV, direct-to-DVD pics and digital content.

One unique twist: Par has the option to own half of any film the filmmaker directs elsewhere, as well as to co-distribute.

Deal marks the first time in years that Scorsese has aligned himself with a studio; among directors, only Steven Spielberg has a producing deal of relative heft.

Despite all the recent talk of studios trimming costs by refusing to support the upper reaches of the star caste system, Scorsese deal signals that studios still care a great deal about working with top talent — and hiring the director who can lure that talent.

For Scorsese’s first Paramount feature, idea is for him to direct a larger-scale commercial film like “The Departed.”

Of the more than 40 films Scorsese’s helmed, Warner Bros.’ “Departed” has turned into his best B.O. performer. Pic has grossed more than $150 million worldwide since its bow five weeks ago and is considered an awards contender.

Under the terms of the pact, Scorsese will work on films for both Paramount proper and John Lesher’s Par Vantage. Lesher was Scorsese’s agent before Grey hired him to run the studio’s specialty arm.

First-look deal was revealed just days after Paramount announced it would distribute Scorsese’s untitled Rolling Stones doc, which he is currently filming. Otherwise, the studio wouldn’t disclose what specific projects will be first up under the deal.

The addition of Scorsese to the Par family comes not long after the studio opted not to reup its production deal with Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner in a very public break, saying Cruise was simply too expensive.

Deal with Scorsese shows that Paramount is certainly willing to pull out the checkbook and pay for overhead when the talent is right. Scorsese and his Sikelia Prods. will remain based in Gotham.

“I have had a great personal relationship with Brad Grey for several years now and am looking forward to working with him at Paramount, a studio rich in cinematic history and responsible for making some of my favorite films — ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ ‘Shane’ and ‘The Heiress,’ among others,” Scorsese said.

Grey, a producer on “Departed,” has said from the outset of his tenure at Paramount that he would use his existing relationships to bring in a stable of what he deems to be the best directors and talent.

“Departed” marked the first time Scorsese and Grey worked together. At that time, Grey — in addition to his duties at Brillstein-Grey — was part of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s Warners-based Plan B, which helped producedthe Scorsese film. (When Grey was named Paramount topper, Plan B left Warners for Par, sans Aniston).

Grey also helped Scorsese on the filmmaker’s 2005 docu “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan.”

“I wanted to create a home here for Marty. I believe that talent attracts talent, and we’re honored to have him here,” Grey said. “For the last year and a half, my priority has been to attract the best talent we can, both in front of and behind the camera.”

To that end, Par bought DreamWorks and inked deals with Pitt’s Plan B, Cameron Crowe and J.J. Abrams, among others.

One directing project Scorsese already had set up at Par is “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.” Other projects in the pipeline at Sikelia Prods. include period piece “Silence” and a proposed docu on the late filmmaker Elia Kazan.

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