NEW YORK — When Noah Wyle signed on last year to spend three more seasons as Dr. John Carter in TV’s top-rated show, “ER,” he got a salary that would make a brain surgeon jealous — and a pledge from Warner Bros. to back his aspirations to star in and produce feature films and TV projects.
Wyle has launched the Wyle/Katz Co. with several such projects — and with his stepfather, industry vet Jim Katz, who has done everything from running the Universal Classics Division to doing publicity for Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti Westerns to producing such films as the Divine starrer “Lust in the Dust.”
Katz is best known for partnering with Robert Harris in the painstaking restoration of such film classics as “My Fair Lady,” “Spartacus,” “Vertigo” and, most recently, “Rear Window.” As an advocate for Wyle, Katz has credentials as well: During Wyle’s boyhood soccer games, for instance, Katz acknowledged that he drew so many red cards for badgering refs on his stepson’s behalf that he was once temporarily banned from the stands.
“When we renegotiated and I knew I’d be here another three years, I wanted to be able to develop and produce features and television so that I could walk away with something tangible, and this partnership just felt right,” said Wyle, who is in the middle of his sixth season on “ER,” with two more to go. On feature projects, he’s working with Warner Bros. senior vice president Robert Guralnick; on the TV side, WB TV prexy Peter Roth.
While Wyle has become one of the best-paid stars on TV, he has not truly tested the film waters as have castmates George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Julianna Margulies, William Macy and Eriq La Salle. Wyle did make early impressions as a brutal member of the Hitler Youth in “Swing Kids” and a young Marine in “A Few Good Men” — characters far from the amiable persona of his TV doc. He starred in the indie “Myth of Fingerprints” and played computer whiz Steve Jobs in the TNT pic “Pirates of Silicon Valley.”
Prepping the patient
Wyle, 28, is preparing for a hoped-for feature life after “ER.” He recently changed agents and signed with CAA’s Bryan Lourd, and he and Katz have set several projects they hope will serve as feature starring vehicles.
One is the romantic comedy “Dick and Jane,” a new script by Michael Laughlin, who wrote the upcoming Warren Beatty starrer “Town and Country” for New Line. Another is “Capitol Offense,” a political thriller in which an innocent finds himself in a plot to assassinate the president. That script was penned by Keith Bernstein, who is writing a series pilot with Wyle/Katz for Warner Bros. Television. They also have several telepic projects in the works and plan to set up other features.
Starting the procedure
“I didn’t give in to the pressure to capitalize on ‘ER’ right away in films; I wanted to take my time and be selective,” Wyle said. “But I’d like to accumulate a nice body of work, and now feels like the right time to get started.”
Katz continues his film restoration efforts with Harris, but will devote most of his time to this new partnership. “I was flattered that Noah asked me and trusts that I have his best interests at heart,” Katz said.