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While waiting in ‘Limbo,’ Sayles will work ‘Magic’

Helmer penning short stories

CANNES — John Sayles, who is in Cannes with his $8 million in-competition film “Limbo,” is writing the adaptation of Davide Ferrario’s novel “Black Magic” for Oliver Parker to helm.

The pic will be set in post-World War II Italy and combines facts from director Orson Welles’ life and a fictional story about Welles becoming involved in a murder investigation. Jonathan Olsberg is producing for Dakota Films.

The project is a respite from directing for Sayles. He’s writing a collection of short stories with no film project in mind.

“I’m working on this collection believing it’s good to strike when the iron is cold,” he said from his Cannes villa, which he is sharing with producer and partner Maggie Renzi. “One of those might turn into a screenplay.”

Sayles has been busy with other writing assignments, including “The Sixth Day,” with Joe Dante to helm for Phoenix Pictures. He was also one of 10 scribes on Universal’s “The Mummy,” which opened to a $44 million weekend.

The director noted that he’s excited to be in Cannes again, having last appeared on the Croisette with “Lone Star” two years ago. But he will be happy not to repeat what happened during his first trip here with “Lianna” in 1983 — the projectionist played the reels out of order during the screening.

“The screening came opposite a Paul Newman press conference,” Sayles remembered. “So, luckily, not too many people were there.”

Sayles added that the at $8 million the budget on “Limbo” was inordinately high for one of his films. “We shot in Alaska, which is a gorgeous state, but everything has to come up there on a barge. If it’s not a salmon, it comes up on a barge, even toilet paper.”

“Limbo,” opening June 4, is the first from the newly created Screen Gems feature logo which will release up to six small to mid-sized pics per year capitalizing on the area between Columbia Pictures’ high-end fare and low-budget Sony Pictures Classics.

Pic is slated to come out in platform release on 50 or so screens, ultimately jumping to 200 screens. in the following weeks.

“I think they will kind of define what Screen Gems is going to be,” Sayles said. “I hope that there is a viability for movies there, somewhere between $20 million-plus studio type films and something low-budget in a Sony Classics film. There are a lot of films in that area.”