Rudin to produce period drama for studios

Scott Rudin, who is transitioning from Paramount to Disney, is getting back into business with his old home.

Rudin will exec produce “There Will Be Blood,” a period drama loosely based on the 1927 Upton Sinclair novel “Oil!,” for Par Classics and the new Miramax.

Daniel Day-Lewis and director Paul Thomas Anderson will team this spring on the pic.

It is the first major project for John Lesher since he left Endeavor to take the top post at the classics division, which will soon be renamed.

Rudin is transitioning from Paramount to Disney, and one of his priorities will be to make prestige projects for Miramax.

The 50/50 partnership formula will be used on several pictures Rudin will put together this year. Some of those titles will be distributed domestically by Miramax, with Paramount taking foreign.

Lesher’s unit will handle domestic distribution rights, while Daniel Battsek’s Miramax will distribute internationally.

Anderson wrote the script and used as his basis Sinclair’s expose of the seamy side of the drilling business in Southern California when it became the equivalent of the gold rush.

Day-Lewis will play a prospector who buys the oil rights to a family’s ranch, and then hits a major pocket of crude. The story then turns into a tale of greed and faith, as the prospector realizes the American dream and is destroyed by it.

Pic will be produced by Anderson and Joanne Sellar, with Rudin exec producing with Eric Schlosser, the author of “Fast Food Nation.” Shooting will begin mid-May, in Texas and New Mexico.

Lesher was Anderson’s longtime agent, and knew the project well because he tried to set it up independently last year. Day-Lewis was already doing his research on his character and the oil business, but the project’s summer 2005 shoot stalled because of problems raising the budget Anderson felt he needed. The agency and Day-Lewis’ reps, Gene Parseghian and Victoria Belfrage kept pushing and Day-Lewis didn’t take another acting job.

The wait was worth it, as the package allows them to make a large-canvas picture for a budget just north of $20 million.

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