Deals erupt for Polanski film ‘Pompeii’

Constantin, Ensueno to co-finance and co-produce

Roman Polanski’s $135 million “Pompeii” has two new producing partners, Germany’s Constantin Film and Spain’s Ensueno.

In two of the biggest deals at Cannes this year, the two companies have inked with France’s R.P. Prods. to co-finance and co-produce the pic.

The Entertainment Group is very close to licensing the U.K.; South Korea has gone to the Mars Entertainment; Pathe Distribution has taken France and RAI has Italy.

R.P. is the Paris-based production banner of Polanski and Robert Benmussa who are producing “Pompeii” with Alain Sarde.

Ensueno is the production unit of Spanish broadcaster Antena 3 TV.

Summit is handling international on the romantic thriller. Set in 79 A.D., it follows a Roman aqueduct engineer to Pompeii. He becomes embroiled in a water corruption scandal, plus one of the most celebrated natural disasters in history.

Pic has been sold in all the world’s key territories except the U.S. and Japan, Benmussa said. “Pompeii” has been sold to much of the world without key cast or a fully finished screenplay.

And the prices paid will be hefty: The asking price for Spain was reportedly $13 million. “Pompeii” was being sold to the Mideast for a mid six-figure sum, as part of a five-film package.

“Pompeii” is based on the best-selling novel by Robert Harris, who is also penning the screenplay with Polanski.

“The screenplay’s pretty finished: it’s good enough for production,” Benmussa said. “We are casting now. We need a final screenplay draft first.

“Making such a film everybody knows we need a star. But it’s not been part of the deal. There are moreover at least three important male parts: the engineer, the girl’s father and the admiral.”

The producers will construct the city of Pompeii at Spain’s new Ciudad de la Luz studios in Alicante.

More than the absence of a star, it has been the large task of building Pompeii on the Ciudad’s backlot that has caused the shoot to be put back at the Ciudad from the last week of August to the first quarter of 2008.

“Construction is too big. We need a least four months of constructions,” Benmussa said.

The entry of Sorolla Films as a Valencian co-producer will allow “Pompeii” to draw down up to $7 million in a Valencia government rebate, based on local spend.

(Alison James, Adam Dawtrey, Ali Jaafar and Nick Vivarelli contributed to this report.)

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