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Film News Roundup: ‘Bernie the Dolphin’ Movie Backed by Ambi Group

In today’s film news round-up, “Bernie the Dolphin” finds backing, Michelle Johnson returns to Hollywood, and Constantin Film picks up rights to “Danger Girl.”

PROJECT BACKING

Ambi Group is teaming with Fairway Film Alliance to finance and produce live-action feature “Bernie the Dolphin,” Variety has learned exclusively.

Lola Sultan (“This Beautiful Fantastic”) has been cast in the lead role, alongside Kevin Sorbo, Patrick Muldoon and Stelio Savante. Kirk Harris will direct “Bernie the Dolphin” from a screenplay written by Terri Emerson and Marty Poole.

Producers are Fairway Film Alliance partners Poole and Harris and Ambi principals Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi, as we well as Tony Armer, film commissioner for St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fl. Executive producers are Barry Brooker and Stan Wertlieb with Stelio Savante as associate producer.

Sultan has appeared in more than 20 commercials including the Frito-Lay “Trade you” national spot, which has aired more than 15,000 times. She can be seen next in “Monsters at Large.”

Ambi introduced the project at the American Film Market and closed deal with Lionsgate’s Grindstone for all North America and 25 international territories.

The movie is set in Florida with a nine-year-old bookworm and her 11-year-old brother forming a bond with a pod of local dolphins they visit every day. The children nearly drown while trying foil a plan that would destroy their hidden beach and are rescued by the dolphins. “Bernie the Dolphin” will shoot on location in Florida in January.

HOLLYWOOD RETURN

Michelle Johnson, who played the lover of Michael Caine’s character in 1984’s “Blame it on Rio,” has returned to Hollywood and signed with management company CSP.

Johnson was 17 when she debuted in “Blame it on Rio.” She had roles in “The Glimmer Man,” “Death Becomes Her,” and “Far and Away” opposite Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman before leaving show business and moving to Arizona.

CSP is a two-year-old division of the production company Citizen Skull.

NEW PROJECT

Constantin Film has picked up the film rights to “Danger Girl” and is developing the title with Jeremy Bolt’s Bolt Pictures and Adrian Askarieh’s Prime Universe Films.

The “Danger Girl” series, created by artist J. Scott Campbell and writer Andy Hartnell, debuted in 1998 and followed the adventures of secret agents Abbey Chase, Sydney Savage, and Natalia Kassle to locate a series of mystical objects and keep them out of the hands of the Hammer Syndicate.

Askarieh, who is a producer of the “Hitman” films, recently signed a first-look deal with Constantin. Producers are Constantin’s Robert Kulzer along with Bolt and Askarieh. Constantin’s Martin Moszkowicz will executive produce along with Campbell and Hartnell.

PRODUCTION LAUNCHES

Shanley Caswell, Rome Flynn, John Ierardi, Drew McAnany, Matt Schulte, Rebecca Vinagro, Bo Youngblood, Jeff Dye, and Brooke Lewis are starring in “1/2 New Year” with shooting underway in Los Angeles.

Producers are Georgia Menides, Zachary Ryan, and McAnany. Tom Morash is directing from a script by McAnany and Menides about a tight-knit group of friends who celebrate a Half New Year Party. Members of the group find themselves unable to keep up the lies they’ve told and maintain relationships they may have outgrown after one of them departs in a dangerous way.

Caswell starred in James Wan’s “The Conjuring” as the oldest of the five Perron sisters.

AWARD

The 29th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will present Timothée Chalamet with the Rising Star Award – Actor for his performance in “Call Me by Your Name.”

The award will be presented at the festival’s awards gala on Jan. 2 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. Past recipients of the Rising Star Award include Ruth Negga, Alicia Vikander, Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Anna Kendrick, Dakota Fanning, Terrence Howard, and Adam Beach.

The film is distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, directed by Luca Guadagnino, and based on the novel by André Aciman. The film also stars Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg.

(Pictured: Lola Sultan.)

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