Shaye shuffling from topper to helmer

For 39 years, New Line’s Bob Shaye has confidently headed the studio that he founded, making fast decisions, both economic and artistic. So why is he suddenly feeling so vulnerable?

Well, Shaye’s been wearing two hats of late: studio topper and director. He’s helming the supernatural fantasy “Mimzy,” his second outing as a director, following 1990’s “Book of Love.”

Since he started New Line in 1967, Shaye has been trusting his instincts, giving notes to directors as diverse as Peter Jackson, Terrence Malick, Mike Leigh and Wes Craven. But as director, he’s now drawing on others’ instincts, eagerly showing dailies and assembled scenes to — well, pretty much anyone who’ll watch.

He’s been showing “Mimzy” to friends and directors who once worked for New Line, looking to collect as much advice at these private screenings as possible.

The pic route to the bigscreen was tortuous.

Based on a 1942 story by Lewis Padgett in which two children are transformed by teaching devices sent from the future, the project has been in development since the early 1990s. James V. Hart‘s original script was revamped by lots of writers over 14 years in development, including Toby Emmerich, who’s now New Line’s production chief. Bruce Joel Rubin did several drafts, and is credited with the final.

“It was an extremely difficult and daunting piece of material,” Shaye recalls. “We would hit a wall and set it aside for a year until (producer) Michael Phillips would say, ‘I have a new idea.’ “

Shaye has always wanted to direct. When he sold New Line to Turner a decade ago, the deal included a provision that Shaye be allowed to direct a film.

But in bringing his longtime pet project to the screen, Shaye’s also taken some curious turns.

As New Line topper, Shaye’s always been wary of making movies with children, but “Mimzy” has two kids as its stars. He was dubious about shooting pics in Canada, but he had to make his in Vancouver.

Now, while much of his time is spent in post-production on “Mimzy,” Shaye is still keeping tabs on New Line’s slate; he’ll travel to London shortly to check up on potential franchise starter “The Golden Compass,” now in pre-production.

But he says he’s trying to relax.

“Frankly, I don’t think it’s healthy to be too much of the doting father when it comes to the studio,” he says.

“Mimzy” is slated for a April release.

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