‘Flawless’ for De Niro

MGM sets Schumacher to helm

NEW YORK — MGM has set Robert De Niro to star in “Flawless,” which Joel Schumacher has scripted and will direct in New York this fall. The film will be produced by Schumacher in conjunction with De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Prods.

De Niro will play a retired security guard who suffers a stroke. A tough, self-reliant New Yorker with conservative politics that place him to the right of Rush Limbaugh, the man must take singing lessons as a way to rehabilitate himself. The good news is his teacher lives right next door; the hard part is, the tutor is a drag queen. The unlikely couple learns to appreciate each another. No word yet who’ll don the dress.

Schumacher wrote the film as a spec and when it didn’t click at his longtime home base at Warner Bros., he took it to MGM president Michael Nathanson, who quickly closed a deal.

Nathanson and Schumacher have been looking to work together again after Nathanson paired with the director as a studio exec for Columbia and New Regency on such films as “Flatliners” and “The Client,” and was executive producer on “A Time to Kill.”

“Joel and I have a close relationship, and though I knew his first obligation was to Warner Bros., he knew that I was always standing by for something they might not want to do,” Nathanson said. “As soon as it was available to me, Frank Mancuso and I said yes immediately.”

Mancuso’s decision to sign De Niro’s Tribeca to a first-look deal when De Niro agreed to star in the John Frankenheimer-directed UA film “Ronin” made Tribeca the easy choice to produce with Schumacher, and not only because De Niro is the film’s star.

Tribeca cranked out the critically acclaimed “Wag the Dog” with backend-loaded deals that landed a star cast for a $15 million budget and less than 30 shooting days. “Flawless” will follow much the same formula.

“Shooting will start in October, and it will be made much in the production style of ‘Wag the Dog,’ ” Nathanson said. “It will be a limited shooting schedule, and everybody will be contributing to make this a cost-effective film.”

After Schumacher established himself as one of Hollywood’s most commercially viable directors with such films as “The Client” and the last two “Batman” installments, “Flawless” is his second straight offbeat effort.

Schumacher’s currently shooting “8 Millimeter,” a dark drama for Columbia that stars Nicolas Cage as a private investigator assigned by a woman to discover the truth about a snuff film she found in her husband’s vault. Joaquin Phoenix costars in the film, scripted by Andrew Kevin Walker (“Seven”).

Schumacher will follow “Flawless” with a bigger-budget adaptation of the smash musical “Dreamgirls” for producer David Geffen and Warner Bros. Tina Andrews (“Soul Food”) is working on the script and Vince Patterson (“Evita”) has been hired as the choreographer in anticipation of a March start. Schumacher and De Niro are CAA-repped.

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