Showtime slate of 7

Cabler goes with star power in $5 mil pix

NEW YORK — Holly Hunter James Caan, Joe Mantegna, Kelsey Grammer, Armand Assante and Timothy Dalton are among the stars set for a slate of seven new original films, budgeted at $4 million-$5 million, that Showtime unveiled Thursday.

The pay cabler also greenlit a slate of nine $3 million all-ages family pics with talent including Andrew McCarthy, Peter Masterson and Blair Underwood.

Hunter will star in an untitled Harlan County project, a fictional story set against the Harlan County, Ky., coal strike of the 1970s.

Mimi Rogers will serve as an executive producer on the film, which is being partially financed through Prosperity Pictures and Flashpoint Ltd.

Challenging topics

Jerry Offsay, president of programming for Showtime, said the Viacom-owned pay cabler tends to greenlight films with challenging topics.

“If we were going for viewership, thrillers and crime dramas will always rate better,” said “Maybe not everybody will watch ‘Harlan County,’ but for those people who do watch it, it will be one of the most important TV experiences they’ll have all year.”

Also on Showtime’s new slate is a piece tentatively titled “The Sports Pages,” a sports anthology pic. The first story, a fictional tale, stars Grammer as a by-the-book golfer who is murdered by his golf partner.

The second part, “Heidi Bowl,” tells of the infamous 1968 Jets-Raiders football game telecast that NBC cut short by airing the children’s telefilm “Heidi,” angering East Coast sports fans.

“Common Ground,” a trilogy from Showtime’s sister company Paramount Network Television, will tell the story of gay life in small-town America over the past half-century.

The film’s stars include Steven Weber, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Beau Bridges, Brittany Murphy, Mimi Rogers and Jason Priestley.

With “Possessed,” starring Timothy Dalton, Showtime will tell a real story that echoes the plot of “The Exorcist.”

James Caan and Brian Dennehy will star in “The Warden,” a Viacom Prods. film about a tough Arizona prison in 1910. In the movie, the warden struggles to come to terms with his love for the widow of an executed convict.

“Jerry and Tom,” a film about an older mob hit-man/used car salesman who teaches a younger associate the ways of the business, will star Mantegna, Ted Danson, Charles Durning and William H. Macy.

Assante and Rachel Ward have signed to star in “On the Beach,” an updating of the 1950s classic about the last American submarine to land in Australia, the only inhabitable place on the planet after the rest of the world has been destroyed by a third World War.

New family pics

Showtime’s new family pictures will include “Finding Buck McHenry” (tentative title), about a 12-year-old who forms his own expansion team when he gets cut from his baseball team. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee are set to star.

James Belushi and Gregory Hines will star in “Unanswered Questions” (working title), a movie based on actual events and scripted and directed by Charles Robert Carner (“Vanishing Point”). In the film, years after Wayne Williams’ conviction, Spin magazine’s editor and ace reporter uncover that white supremacists may have been responsible for the Atlanta child killings.