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MGM, Universal going dutch on ‘Hannibal’ tab

Studios co-financing pic, risk-minimization expected

Universal Pictures and MGM will co-finance “Hannibal,” with U supervising production and distributing internationally. MGM will control the marketing and distribution of the film in United States and Canada.

Project, which moved onto firm footing last month with the signing of Julianne Moore to play Clarice Starling (Daily Variety, Feb. 11), will begin production in May in Florence, Italy.

The partnership between the studios had been anticipated since both have been employing risk-minimization strategies on recent high-profile projects. A release date has not yet been set.

As expected, Anthony Hopkins has agreed to reprise his Oscar-winning role as Hannibal Lecter in the thriller, set seven years after the original “The Silence of the Lambs,” with a Lecter victim seeking revenge. Ridley Scott will direct from a script by Steven Zaillian and will serve as producer along with Dino and Martha De Laurentiis.

U develops pic

Universal has developed the project since Dino De Laurentiis obtained the rights to the Thomas Harris novel for an estimated $9 million. De Laurentiis obtained first negotiation rights to author-written sequels as part of the contract he held on “Manhunter,” the adaptation of Harris’ 1981 novel “Red Dragon.” Hannibal Lecter first appeared in that novel and played a supporting role in the Michael Mann-directed movie.

Universal’s handling of the co-financing arrangement with MGM and its agreement with the filmmakers was led by Universal Pictures president Rick Finkelstein. MGM’s business affairs department handled its end of the negotiations.

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