Malkovich’s prod’n arm lays plans

Slate includes thriller, satire

More than a year and a half after its formation, John Malkovich’s production company, Mr. Mudd, is in pre-production on “Ghost World” and has laid plans for Malkovich to direct three films and produce 15.

Malkovich will helm “Dear Mr. Copote,” a suspense drama penned by Mary Kuryla based on a novel by Gordon Lish; “The Dancer Upstairs,” a police thriller written by Nicolas Shakespeare based on his novel and produced in conjunction with Lolafilms; and “Baby Doc,” a satire written by Malkovich and Pierre Hodgson.

“Ghost World,” a Jersey Shore/Mr. Mudd production, is a low-budget pic based on the comic novella by Dan Clowes. MGM/UA will distribute domestically and Terry Zwigoff (“Crumb”) will direct from a script he co-wrote with Clowes. Granada Film and Foundry Film Partners will handle international rights (Daily Variety, Oct. 26, 1999).

With Independent Film Channel, InDigent and producer Ruth Charny, Mr. Mudd is also developing “Kill the Poor,” a dramedy with Alan Taylor (“Palookaville”) attached to direct. Daniel Handler wrote the script, based on a novel by Joel Rose.

Television projects

On the television end, Mr. Mudd has sold the pilot “Shampoo Planet” to CBS. Based on the novel by Douglas Coupland (“Generation X”), series will focus on Tyler Johnson, a 20-year-old vid-kid living in a decaying city in the Pacific Northwest who aspires to a career with the corporation whose office his mother once firebombed.

Pic will be produced by Studios USA TV; exec producers are Tom Wolf and Barbara Wallace.

Among Mr. Mudd’s other projects are “Art School Confidential,” with Terry Zwigoff attached to direct; “Found in the Street,” based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith for Steppenwolf co-founder Terry Kinney to helm; “The Gold of Exodus,” written by John Sayles, based on the novel by Howard Blum, and set up at Castle Rock Entertainment; “The Libertine,” penned by Stephen Jeffreys based on his play; and “One Last Thing,” by writer Nicholas Klein (“Million Dollar Hotel,” “The End of Violence”).

Malkovich, who formed Mr. Mudd in 1998 with producing partners Lianne Halfon and Russell Smith, told Daily Variety, “We are interested in strong stories — well written, intelligent and vaguely commercial on some level.”

Producing preferred

Halfon and Smith added that the company’s seeking projects for Malkovich to direct or produce, rather than act in.

Although his performance in indie pic “Being John Malkovich” has thrown him back in the public eye, Malkovich said, “I don’t follow the vagaries of whether you’re cool today or not. I love producing because that means you are responsible for the whole production according to your liking, not someone else’s.”

A Granada Film discretionary fund has enabled Mr. Mudd to actively acquire novels, nonfiction books, newspaper articles and original ideas — with an emphasis on honing each screenplay before trying to set the project up with studio or talent.

Project budgets range from several hundred thousand dollars to $40 million and include TV, documentaries, digital films and features.