Artisan bites on ‘Dog’

Paramount picks up Coppola's 'Virgin Suicides'

In the waning hours of the 1999 Cannes Film fest, two more films were picked up by U.S. distribs: Artisan Entertainment acquired domestic rights to Jim Jarmusch’s competition pic, “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai,” while Paramount Classics, confirming an earlier report, announced the acquisition of Sofia Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides” (Daily Variety, May 21).

“Ghost Dog,” which screened Tuesday in competition at the fest, stars Forest Whitaker, John Tormey and Cliff Gorman. Whitaker plays Ghost Dog, a modern day professional killer who lives by the code of the ancient Japanese samurai. Ghost Dog — whose name reflects his ability to come and go without being noticed or traced — has spent years working as a devoted hitman for a small-time Italian mobster (Tormey).

Hitman heroics

But when Ghost Dog is seen on his unlucky 13th job, the mobster’s bosses send their own thugs to try to take him out, and Ghost Dog responds by commencing a methodical campaign to wipe out his adversaries.

Artisan is understood to have paid a low-seven-figure price for U.S. and English-speaking Canadian rights.

Jarmusch and Richard Guay produced the pic, which was financed by Studio Canal Plus, JVC and BAC Films.

ICM’s Bart Walker, attorney Richard Heller and Stacey Smith of Jarmusch’s Plywood Prods. brokered the deal on Jarmusch’s behalf. Artisan prexy Amir Malin led negotiations for the company.

Coppola’s ‘Virgin’ pic

And late last week, the specialized offspring of Paramount Pictures picked up North America, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa rights to the debut feature from Sofia Coppola, daughter of “Godfather” helmer Francis Ford Coppola.

“Virgin Suicides,” produced by American Zoetrope, was screened in the Director’s Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival.

Francis Ford Coppola, Julie Costanzo, Dan Halsted and Chris Hanley produced “Virgin.” Pic was repped by ICM and attorney George Hayum on behalf of American Zoetrope. Par Classics co-prexies Ruth Vitale and David Dinerstein negotiated on behalf of the specialized label.