Giant leap for director Duncan Jones

Duncan Jones has made a giant leap.

The helmer’s first picture, 2009’s lunar-set “Moon,” is sustained by a single actor (Sam Rockwell) and was budgeted at just $5 million.

His second film, the upcoming “Source Code,” is a high-octane sci-fi thriller with stars (including Jake Gyllenhaal), multiple characters, vfx shots and an ambitious multilayered storyline with a budget almost eight times higher than that of “Moon,” per Philippe Rousselet of Vendome Pictures, which financed “Code.”

A mind-bending puzzler of a movie, “Code” offers its own twist on time travel and terrorism. The picture, which takes place in Chicago, was mostly shot in Montreal over 44 days.

The producers knew they were taking a risk when they gave second-time director Jones control over such a large undertaking. “There’s always that anxiety when you don’t have a body of work to look at for whatever director you’re hiring,” said producer Mark Gordon, “but after spending time with Duncan talking about the film, I felt he knew what he was doing.”

The project underwent several permutations during its development; at one time it resided at Universal before that studio’s recent management upheaval gave Vendome the chance to snatch it up. “They had a hard time letting it go,” recalled Rousselet, “but they had to when there was a big shift in the organization.”

Universal’s loss was Summit’s gain, as Vendome has an overall distribution deal with Summit, which will release “Code” in the U.S. and the U.K. on Friday.

Gordon isn’t shy about his role in shepherding “Code.” “Producers do make a difference,” he said, referring to himself and exec producer Hawk Koch, his partner on the project. “This was a collaboration between Duncan, ourselves and Vendome. Duncan understood what we were all going for collectively, and he delivered it in spades.”

After working with scribe Ben Ripley on a series of drafts, Gordon sent the script to Gyllenhaal, who suggested Jones as director. “I screened ‘Moon’ and felt that if Duncan can hold audiences’ attention when there’s only one person in a film for 90 minutes, he should be able to make ‘Code,’ where you go back in time to the same place over and over again, even though each time it’s different.”

Yet, Gordon acknowledged, “It’s always a crap shoot. You have an image in your head of what this thing should look like, and when you hand it off to a director you keep your fingers crossed that what you discussed in the room is what you’re going to get. It doesn’t always work out that way, but when it does you end up with gold, which I think we did.”

Bookings & Signings

Editor Michael Polakow starts his eighth year on CW’s “America’s Top Model.”

Innovative Artists signed production designer Nathan Amondson (“Trespass”), line producer Kate Dean (“Winter’s Bone”) and stunt coordinator Kevin Scott (“Battleship”). Agency has booked d.p.’s Phedon Papamichael on an untitled Judd Apatow project, production designers Scott Chambliss on J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek XII,” Andrew Menzies on Jon Chu’s “G.I. Joe 2″ and Michael Wylie on NBC’s “Wonder Woman” pilot; editors Pamela March on Daniel Hsia’s “Americatown” and Ned Bastille on John Fortenberry’s “Night of the Living Fred”; and costume designers Sanja Hays on Len Wiseman’s “Total Recall 2″ and Marissa Borsetto on ABC’s “Smothered” pilot and “Man Up.”

Murtha Agency booked d.p.’s John Aronson on USA’s “In Plain Sight,” John Bartley on Michael Rymer’s “17th Precinct,” Robert Brinkmann on Disney Channel movie “Charming” and Dave Perkal on ABC Family movie “Teen Spirit”; and production designers Charisse Cardenas on Heitor Dhalia’s “Gone,” Guy Barnes on Fox movie “Dear Annie,” Marcia Hinds on ABC movie “Damage Control” and Stefano Ortolani on Canal Plus’ “Borgia.”

Gersh Agency made multiple bookings on HBO projects. D.p. Jonathan Freeman, production designer Bill Groom, costume designer John Dunn and editor Kate Sanford on “Boardwalk Empire”; production designers Rick Butler on “Bored to Death” and Kelly McGehee on “How to Make It in America”; costume designers Daniel Lawson on “Bored to Death” and Stacey Battat on “Girls”; and editor Meg Reticker on “Bored to Death.”

Want to comment or suggest a column topic? Email peter.caranicas@variety.com

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