CANNES — As most other major studios rush to set up specialized film divisions, Harvey Weinstein is taking Miramax in a new direction.
The indie maven said that while he will still partake in the acquisitions and production craziness of the Cannes, Toronto, Mifed, Sundance, Venice and Telluride festivals (“It’s still where we live,” he said), Miramax has a new mantra: TV.
Miramax is planning a one-hour episodic series based on the Sylvester Stallone/Robert De Niro starrer “Cop Land.” James Mangold, who wrote and directed the feature film for Miramax, is developing the project to be one of the Disney-owned indie’s first major TV shows.
Other TV projects include “What’s My Line,” an updated version of the gameshow, and a horror series based on the untitled Kevin Williamson-Robert Rodriguez pic that Miramax currently has in development.
Weinstein said that Miramax will distribute its TV fare domestically, but Buena Vista will probably handle international distribution.
Relaxing on the patio of his room at the Hotel du Cap, Weinstein said that just as Miramax dominated and then defined the arthouse market, he believes that the company can have a similar impact on the TV biz. Indeed, he said that he won’t stop until he finds the next “Seinfeld.”
“Bob (Weinstein, his brother and co-chairman) and I foresaw that there would be a problem and we diversified,” he said. “I feel like the Madonna of the movie business. We’ve changed our hairdo.”
Elder statesman role
Weinstein likes to think of himself as an elder statesman these days. He said that he’s grown with the business. “We are so diversified that we are already moving into other areas like TV and publishing,” he said. “For these other companies dependent on growing, it’s going to be difficult.”
Over the past year, Universal, MGM and Paramount have all entered the specialized business, with labels October Films and Goldwyn Films (Paramount’s division is untitled). In addition, a string of non-studio-aligned hopefuls have emerged, including Stratosphere, Artisan and Lions Gate.
“The market is overcrowded,” Weinstein said. “It can’t survive with so many companies. Miramax has already cut back and we will cut back even more.”
Miramax has shifted away from solely acquisitions to embrace production, with a wide range of budgets. With its Dimension Films, Miramax has several feature projects in development that could cost as much as $80 million, including a “Total Recall” sequel that may star Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Weinstein admitted that he has been slow to move Miramax into new areas. But he said that now he and his brother have established a stable group of senior lieutenants — he cited the likes of Meryl Poster, Bob Osher, Charles Leighton, Mark Gill, Rick Sands, Cary Granat and Marcy Granata — they can focus more time on growth areas.
“I like to think that I’m always evolving,” Weinstein said. “I’m losing every bit of the edge that I had. I still love movies and still compete for films. But I have no bad feelings toward the competition anymore.”
However, nobody should be under the impression that Weinstein is about to retire. For example, he plans to pay attention to areas where he believes that Miramax comes up short. ” ‘Shall We Dance’ wasn’t a success internationally,” he noted. “The marketing didn’t work. I have to get more involved.”
Another key factor in Miramax’s transformation, according to Weinstein, is the company’s ability to attract studio-level talent of the caliber of Robin Williams (“Good Will Hunting”) and Sean Connery (“Dancing About Architecture”).
Weinstein pointed to the Miramax track record as proof that he doesn’t need to flaunt it: 120 Oscar nominations, five Palmes d’Or and one best picture Oscar for “The English Patient.”
“It’s not about one year or one film. It’s about a team like the Chicago Bulls or the Yankees,” he said.
Weinstein said that one area where he’s not losing any edge is his taste for provocative fare. Miramax financed Todd Haynes’ “Velvet Goldmine,” a dark pic about the glam-rock scene in 1970s London. Pic is in competition at Cannes.
According to Weinstein: “It makes ‘Boogie Nights’ look like ‘Mary Poppins.’ ”