Showtime picks up stars

Sked of 13 originals for Y2K features top names

NEW YORK — Premium cabler Showtime on Monday announced a slate of 13 original films featuring talent such as Gillian Anderson, Anthony LaPaglia, Laura Linney, William Hurt, Miranda Richardson, Jane Seymour and Tom Berenger.

The slate of $3 million-$6 million films will comprise almost one-third of Showtime’s lineup of 35 original films (23 primetime adult pictures and 12 family movies) skedded for the year 2000, said Jerry Offsay, president of programming at Showtime Networks.

Anderson, LaPaglia and Linney will star in “House of Mirth,” an adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel directed by Terence Davies (“Distant Voices, Still Lives,” “The Neon Bible”).

“House of Mirth,” budgeted at more than Showtime’s usual $6 million cap, is part of a 12-picture production deal with Granada Film, which developed the project.

Hurt and Richardson star in “The Big Brass Ring,” a film that recently ran at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and is scheduled to premiere on Showtime in fall 2000. The film is about a man’s quest for the governorship of Missouri and the dark family secret that threatens his campaign and reputation.

Most commercial

Offsay said “In the Company of Spies,” starring Berenger and Ron Silver, is one of Showtime’s most commercial movies, and should prove to be one of the cabler’s highest rated.

The film, distributed by Paramount Network Television, is about a retired CIA operative who is brought back into action to save a friend from North Korean authorities bent on nuclear blackmail of the West. Offsay said the CIA served as a consultant on the film.

Seymour toplines “The True Life Story of Fanny Kemble” (working title). Film tells the story of Kemble, whose fight against slavery in the antebellum South convinced England not to enter the Civil War on the side of the South.

“The Dickson Family Saga” (working title) stars Sam Waterston and Jennifer Beals, and is also set in the Civil War-era South. The film is about a white woman who learns that her mother was black after her father dies and has willed the daughter his property. The father’s brother protests the will on the grounds that the daughter is black and therefore cannot own land.

Beals will also star with Rod Steiger, Joe Mantegna and former prizefighter Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini in “Body and Soul.” The film focuses on a poor, idealistic boxer who has to deal with temptation and corruption in his rise to become a champion.

Inspired by staffers

Offsay said Showtime’s sequel to its 1998 original film “Inspectors,” which told the story of postal inspectors, was inspired by two Showtime employees who were victimized in mail fraud. Thieves stole the two staffers’ credit card information from the mail and proceeded to clean out the Showtimers’ bank accounts.

The as-yet-untitled sequel will reunite actors Jonathan Silverman and Lou Gossett Jr. with director Brad Turner. The first edition of “Inspectors” generated Showtime’s second-highest original movie rating of last year, Offsay said.

“Blood Money,” starring Brian Bloom (“Knocking on Death’s Door”) and Alan Arkin, is a Mafia picture about a Wall Street executive who gets sucked back into the family crime business.

Showtime also announced “Rated X,” starring Emilio Estevez and brother Charles Sheen. They star as the Mitchell brothers, who become kings of the porn business only to destroy themselves in the process. The film is the first project of Showtime’s co-financing deal with Flashpoint Ltd. and Prosperity Pictures.

Offsay added that Showtime also has a film in development about Judith Exner, the mistress of John F. Kennedy linked to mobster Sam Giancana. Talent has not been set.

Showtime also announced four family films, including “The Wishing Tree,” starring Alfre Woodard and “An Ordinary Boy: The Daniel Huffman Story” (working title), starring John Korty (“Long Road Home”) and Debbie Reynolds.