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TriStar Pix kicks off ‘Rudy’ film

After legal wrangling and last-minute machinations, TriStar Pictures has given the green light to the football story “Rudy,” which reunites the screenwriter/director team that spawned Orion Pictures’ 1986 basketball pic “Hoosiers,” the studio confirmed yesterday.

Budgeted at roughly $ 13 million, screenwriter Angelo Pizzo’s “Rudy” is set to go into principal photography on Oct. 26 under the aegis of director David Anspaugh.

Cast as lead in the movie is “Encino Man” star Sean Astin, while Ned Beatty, Charles S. Dutton (“Roc”) and Lili Taylor (“Say Anything”) play supporting roles. The project is skedded as a 50-day shoot.

“Rudy” has been on the front burner of TriStar’s production plans for several weeks. But the studio’s official go on the project was delayed as it cleared last-minute rights claims against the property.

“Rudy” joins the Mike Myers starrer “So I Married An Ax Murderer” (Daily Variety, June 4), producer Gary Foster’s “Sleepless in Seattle,” Carolco Pictures’ “Cliffhanger,” Woody Allen’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery,” the sequel “Look Who’s Talking 3” and director Jonathan Demme’s “People Like Us” on the studio’s 1993 production program. Studio chairman Mike Medavoy has indicated that the studio plans 12 or more releases in 1993.

As TriStar rounds out its 1993 schedule, other projects appear to be close to production. The list includes Zoetrope’s “Frankenstein,” screenwriter Richard Lagravanese’s “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” Amblin Entertainment’s “Zorro,” producer Gale Anne Hurd’s “Taking Liberty,” the animated “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” director Ben Stiller’s “Reality Bites,” screenwriter Stephen Metcalfe’s “Cop Gives Waitress $ 2 Million Tip” and producer Laura Ziskin’s “Old Friends.”

As for “Rudy,” the production is based on the true-life story of Rudy Ruettiger, who overcame his 5-foot, 6-inch stature and pursued his dream to play at least one down for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. After receiving the support of his teammates, including quarterback Joe Montana, Ruettiger played the last few seconds of the last game of his senior year, sacked the opposing quarterback and was carried off the field.

“The movie is an entirely soulful film,” said Rob Fried, who will produce the film in partnership with Cary Woods for their Fried/Woods Films banner. “It wasn’t just that he played for the last 22 seconds of his career, but he did it in front of his father.”

TriStar veepee of production Kevin Misher will supervise the project, marking the first movie the 27-year-old executive will solely supervise since earning his executive’s stripes (Daily Variety, Jan. 10). Previously, Misher worked as production executive on such TriStar releases as “Wilder Napalm,””Sniper” and “Toy Soldiers.””Rudy” marks Fried/Woods Films’ second go picture in less than six months. The two producers were also involved in “So I Married an Ax Murderer ,” which is penciled in for a Feb. 5 release by TriStar. Fried and Woods first partnered in July 1991.

The roots of “Rudy” run deep. Producer Fried and Medavoy were originally interested in the project when both were executives at Orion in 1986, but screenwriter Pizzo and director Anspaugh wanted to steer clear of sports movies after “Hoosiers,” which grossed $ 28.6 million in domestic box office receipts.

Fried finally convinced the filmmakers to revisit “Rudy” years later, when he became an independent producer with Columbia Pictures. Fried subsequently sold the project to Frank Price–roughly six months before Price exited as chairman of Columbia Pictures (Daily Variety, Oct. 4). Price’s successor, Colpixchairman Mark Canton, placed “Rudy” in turnaround earlier this year.

In May, Price took the project to Savoy Pictures–the start-up distribution company headed by Victor Kaufman and Lewis Korman. Savoy almost agreed to provide distribution guarantees for the movie, but passed at the last minute because the company was not able to get its foreign output deals in place in time for an October start. TriStar jumped in and gave the movie the go.

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