Duo to bring car designer's story to bigscreen

Time Inc. Studios and XYZ Films have joined the race to mount biopics of John DeLorean, the innovative car designer who lost everything when he was accused of drug trafficking in an attempt to save his failing car company.

The Time/XYZ project joins two other projects aspiring to bring the DeLorean saga to the bigscreen. “Rush Hour” director Brett Ratner is using his first-look deal with India’s Reliance Big Entertainment to set up a DeLorean pic he plans to direct, with James Toback writing the script and Robert Evans producing.

And producer David Permut is working on a DeLorean pic with producer Steven Lee Jones that is using life rights from the late DeLorean’s longtime attorney, Mayer Morganroth (Daily Variety, March 4).

Time Inc. Studios, which forged a deal with XYZ Films last year to hatch films fueled by underlying rights from articles culled from Time Inc. magazines, kicks off the untitled project with a rights package that includes articles from Fortune and Time; the Hillel Levin-penned DeLorean book “Grand Delusions”; and an unpublished memoir written by DeLorean himself. Just as important, Time Inc. Studios and XYZ say they have cooperation from the car designer’s longtime friend and business partner Fred Dellis and from DeLorean son Zachary DeLorean, executor of the DeLorean estate.

The picture will be produced by Time Inc. Studios president Paul Speaker; XYZ partners Nate Bolotin, Nick Spicer and Aram Tertzakian; and Tamir Ardon, who is himself producing a docu on DeLorean.

Spicer said that the DeLorean tale has long tempted filmmakers, but while he was alive, the carmaker would never let a picture be made without steering it himself. DeLorean’s son and friend, however, are ready for a truthful telling of the rise and fall of the entrepreneur, bolstered by 500 pages of the DeLorean-penned memoir.

After his arrest in 1982, DeLorean pressed a defense that he was entrapped by the FBI and was eventually acquitted. Still, his company went bankrupt after producing only 9,000 automobiles, including the DMC-12 model featured in the “Back to the Future” films.

“It is almost like an updated ‘Citizen Kane’ story of the great American entrepreneurial hero and how it all went wrong,” said XYZ’s Spicer.

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