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Fine Line Draws In Pix By Jarman, Jarmusch; Co-Prods In The Works

Fine Line Features, the recently formed New York-based division of New Line Cinema, has acquired domestic distribution rights to several films, including Jim Jarmusch’s highly touted comedy “Night on Earth,” and is embarking on international co-productions.

“Night on Earth” stars Winona Ryder, Gena Rowlands, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Beatrice Dalle and features the music of the filmmaker’s longtime collaborator Tom Waits. Company prexy Ira Deutchman said the distrib plans a spring release for the pic, which he said is the “most accessible film [Jarmusch] has made.”

The company also has acquired rights to “Swoon,” spotted as a work in progress by a Fine Line scout at the recent Independent Feature Project market in New York. It was directed by Tom Kalin and produced by Christine Vachon, who also produced Todd Haynes’ “Poison.” It is targeted for a spring or summer release.

The executive said director Charles Sturridge’s period romance “Where Angels Fear to Tread,” to which Fine Line recently acquired all U.S. rights, will bow in February.

The distrib also has acquired North American rights to the British film “Edward II,” directed by Derek Jarman. The modernized adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s 16th century tragedy won the best actress award at the Venice Film Festival for Tilda Swinton. No U.S. release date has been set.

Five-city cab ride

Written, directed and produced by Jarmusch (“Stranger Than Paradise,” “Down by Law,” “Mystery Train”), “Night on Earth” is described by the filmmaker as “a comedy in five sections, each focusing on a brief relationship between a taxi driver and his/her passenger(s) as they drive through the night sharing the space of a car interior, suspended between fixed destinations.” The film takes place in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome and Helsinki.

The film marks Jarmusch’s second collaboration with electronics giant JVC, which provided most of “Night’s” financing.

The 16m black & white “Swoon” features Wooster Group actors Ron Vawter, Michael Stumm and Michael Kirby and is about the famous Leopold and Loeb murder case of 1924.

The domestic deal includes all North American rights with the exception of the first TV window. Those rights went to American Playhouse, which with Fine Line provided money to complete the film.

Deutchman also recently confirmed the company’s first foray into international co-production with Stephen Gyllenhaal’s “Waterland” and Hal Hartley’s “Simple Men.”

“Simple Men,” which Fine Line is co-producing with Zenith Pictures and American Playhouse Theatrical Films, stars Robert Burke and William Sage (both from Hartley’s “The Unbelievable Truth”), and is about two brothers’ search for their long-lost father. Earlier this year, Fine Line released Hartley’s “Trust.”

Sordid family history

The distrib has all North American rights to “Waterland,” a film on which the company is partnered with Palace Pictures (which retains U.K. rights), Pandora Films and British Screen.

Now lensing in England, “Waterland” is based on Graham Swift’s novel about a high school teacher (Jeremy Irons) in Pittsburgh who, while undergoing a career crisis, tells his students tales about his fantastic and sordid family history in England, which come to life before their eyes. Pic also stars Ethan Hawke and John Heard.

Fine Line has “substantial investments” in both “Waterland,” which Deutchman estimates will end up costing about $8 million, and “Simple Men,” with an approximate cost of $3 million. Exec said Fine Line targets both pics for release next fall with expectations that they will be delivered in time for the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Forster remains hot

“Where Angels Fear to Tread,” based on E.M. Forster’s first novel, stars Judy Davis, Helen Mirren, Helena Bonham-Carter and Rupert Graves. It’s about two British women on vacation in turn-of-the-century Italy.

The British novelist, who died in 1970, has been a hot filmmaking property in recent years. David Lean’s “A Passage to India” was released by Columbia in 1984. It was followed by two adaptations by Merchant Ivory Prods., “A Room With a View” and “Maurice,” both released by Cinecom Entertainment, where Deutchman formerly was a partner. Merchant Ivory also recently completed filming on Forster’s “Howards End.”

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