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Byrne renews 1st-look film deal with Phoenix

After 'Mambo,' Plurabelle planning 'Bird,' 'Lying Laird'

Actor and producer Gabriel Byrne has renewed the first-look film deal for his Plurabelle Films outfit with Phoenix Pictures.

The new arrangement also allows Plurabelle to move into TV production, via Phoenix’s own nascent TV arm.

Plurabelle is coming off its first pic for Phoenix, the Irish-set romantic comedy “Mad About Mambo,” starring Keri Russell and William Ash. “Mambo,” which is in post-production, is the directing debut of John Forte. Plurabelle co-produced the film with First City Features.

Polygram Filmed Entertainment has worldwide rights to “Mambo,” which Gramercy Pictures will release in the U.S.

Among the feature projects in development at Plurabelle, intended for Phoenix, are comedy “The Lying Laird” and WWII entry “Early Bird.”

‘Bird’ may fly

Byrne said that he hopes “Bird” will begin shooting next May with Simon Wincer (“Free Willy”) directing. Screenplay, penned by Brian Palfrey, is the story of a B-17 bomber crew who crash land in Ireland during WWII. Byrne described the pic as a romantic drama.

Meanwhile, Plurabelle has tapped Mel Smith, director of the smash Polygram hit “Bean,” to helm “Laird.” Pic, written by Robin Lister and Agatha Dominik, is based on the true story of an official who embezzled a large sum of money in order to obtain a Scottish title.

Byrne said that he expects Plurabelle’s feature output to remain steady at around two films per annum. The company, which has offices in Dublin and Los Angeles, boasts just two execs, Amy Singer and Christina Giffen.

Mum on details

In terms of television, Byrne said Plurabelle is interested primarily in drama and is involved in a number of projects, which are in “advanced pre-production.” Byrne, who said he would exec produce them, was mum on further details.

Under its deal with Byrne, Sony Pictures Entertainment-based Phoenix, which is headed by Mike Medavoy and Arnold Messer, provides Plurabelle with certain development/overhead monies in return for first crack at financing and distributing its pics. Phoenix senior exec VP Rick Hess also oversees the Plurabelle deal.

Vote of confidence

“This (renewal) represents a vote of confidence from Phoenix in Gabriel,” said Medavoy, who reaffirmed his company’s belief in signing talent-driven production deals (Phoenix’s other pacts are with Nick Nolte’s Kingsgate Films and Sean Penn’s Clyde Is Hungry Films).

Aside from his numerous acting credits, Byrne co-wrote and co-exec produced “Last of the High Kings” and exec produced “In the Name of the Father.” He founded Plurabelle in ’96.

As an actor, Byrne just wrapped his role opposite Patricia Arquette in MGM’s supernatural thriller “Stigmata,” for director Rupert Wainwright.