Smith, Malkovich pact with Granada

Prod deal gives co five-pic deal

John Malkovich and Russell Smith’s Smith.Malkovich outfit has entered into a two-year, non-exclusive production deal with Granada Film, the film financing division of U.K. leisure conglomerate and broadcaster Granada Plc.

Under the deal, which was described as “very lucrative” for S.M, Granada will provide development financing and overhead for an initial slate of five films.

Granada will finance the productions, depending on the size of their budgets. The company may seek a U.S. partner for each project.

The focus of the deal will be on producing, but Malkovich will direct certain projects under the arrangement.

The first project to be made will be the period drama “The Libertine,” an adaptation of the play by U.K. playwright Stephen Jeffreys. Malkovich will direct and Jeffreys will write the script.

“Libertine” will be a co-production between S.M and Granada Film. The film will shoot in early fall in either U.K. or Ireland, with Malkovich taking a supporting acting role.

According to Smith, Granada was introduced to S.M by William Morris Agency’s Charles Finch, who brokered the deal along with WMA’s Ben Silverman.

“Granada wanted to jumpstart its film division, and get into making more films and bigger films,” Smith said.

Smith said that S.M’s projects will be “U.K., U.S. and world-cinema” orientated, and priced between $2 million and $40 million.

Granada and S.M will co-own the negatives and share the revenues on all the films.

Another project in development is dramatic thriller “The Dancer Upstairs,” based on the novel by Nicholas Shakespeare, with Malkovich attached to direct and Javier Bardem (“Live Flesh”) to star.

This project was previously set up at J&M Entertainment, but, according to Malkovich, it is now owned by S.M and could be made under the Granada deal.

Malkovich said that he acquired a taste for producing on the 1988 Lawrence Kasdan comedy-drama “The Accidental Tourist,” which he executive produced with Phyllis Carlyle.

“This deal seems like the best possible pairing,” he told Daily Variety. “We like U.K. writers and the people at Granada, and they like our material. And I live in France, so this deal will be convenient.”

Malkovich said that Granada expected S.M to make mainstream, U.S. films and not just European projects. S.M has the drama “The Gold of Exodus” in development at Castle Rock and the spy comedy “The Gun Seller” in development at United Artists.

Granada’s films are currently distributed internationally by a number of different sales outfits, but the addition of the S.M slate is likely to lead to a review of this strategy, Cross said.

This week, MGM releases Randall Wallace’s “The Man in the Iron Mask,” which was produced by Smith and co-stars Malkovich.

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