Teuton trailblazer siets sights beyond 'Resident Evil'

BERLIN — Constantin Film, Germany’s leading production group, has unleashed its global ambitions with a slew of high-profile releases, including a big bet on Paul W.S. Anderson, whose “Resident Evil” franchise has helped fill Constantin’s coffers.

Anderson, whose “Resident Evil: Afterlife” has amassed $300 million worldwide, is slated to direct “Pompeii” — budgeted at more than $100 million and set to become Constantin’s most expensive movie. The helmer just finished “The Three Musketeers” and is already busy at work on the fifth “Resident Evil” installment, which heads into production in September. He’ll then leap directly into “Pompeii,” scheduled to shoot in Europe in March.

“We really feel that big budgets are in part going to make a lot of the problems that we have in Europe disappear,” says Martin Moszkowicz, Constantin’s head of film and television. “We feel that there are too many small pictures out there. An audience is always going to look for something bigger if it’s good quality-wise.”

Sony has just acquired worldwide rights for “Resident Evil 5″ outside of Germany and France, where Constantin and Metropolitan are distributing, respectively. Screen Gems will release the pic Stateside.

Also in the works is a 3D CGI animated adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Tarzan,” footage of which will screen at Cannes, as well as “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” Scott Stewart’s adaptation of the first book in Cassandra Clare’s fantasy series.

“Pompeii” is an original story, unrelated to the Robert Harris novel of the same name, which is being adapted for television. The film, penned by writing duo Lee Batchler and Janet Scott Batchler, revolves around a teen love story set against the backdrop of the Vesuvius eruption that destroyed and buried the ancient Roman city.

Summit Entertainment is handling worldwide sales on the project and also co-producing with Constantin and Anderson and Jeremy Bolt’s Impact Pictures.

As with “Resident Evil 5,” Anderson will shoot the pyroclastic spectacle of “Pompeii” in 3D. The filmmakers are scouting locations in Italy and Morocco, and may also shoot parts at Studio Babelsberg and on Malta. Bolt, Anderson and Constantin’s Robert Kulzer are producing.

Although set in ancient times, “Pompeii” will have a contemporary look and feel, says Moszkowicz, who serves as exec producer on all the upcoming pics.

In that respect, the film is like “Musketeers,” an updated take on a classic period story, which has been gaining buzz. “Paul is fantastic with this,” Moszkowicz says. “He has the ability to give these stories a fresh new look.”

Also getting the contempo treatment is “Tarzan.” Directed by Constantin’s toon team of Reinhard Klooss and Holger Tappe, makers of the animated hit “Animals United,” “Tarzan” will focus largely on the ape man’s younger years. Kulzer and Klooss produce. The film is in production, with Summit handling worldwide sales.

Sony, meanwhile has picked up most international territories for “Mortal Instruments,” toplining Lilly Collins, with the exception of some key territories, such as France and Spain. Pic centers on a teenager’s search for her missing mother in a city filled with fairies, warlocks and other magical beings. Screen Gems is distributing Stateside. Kulzer is producing with Unique Features partners Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne; Moszkowicz and Unique’s Dylan Sellers are exec producing.

“Mortal Instruments” is scheduled to start production in October, either in Canada or Los Angeles, right after Collins finishes work on Tarsem Singh’s “The Brothers Grimm: Snow White.”

While Constantin’s box office success, continuing growth and increase in activity promise rosy long-term prospects, the company’s strong performance has been overshadowed by tragedy.

Execs and staffers were hit hard by the death of company founder and former topper Bernd Eichinger earlier this year.

Moszkowicz describes Eichinger as irreplaceable. “Besides being a great producer, Bernd was also an incredibly close friend to all of us,” Moszkowicz says. “We miss him as an advisor, we miss him as a person who was so creative in every way.”

While Eichinger’s name will forever remain linked to Constantin, he had in recent years concentrated on writing and producing more personal films, while the company, eager to break out of the German market, has increasingly focused on big-budgeted international productions while also maintaining its German-language output.

Constantin’s lineup reps another step forward in that international arena.

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