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MGM wins rights for ‘Killing’ in U.S., Canada

$10 mil gets Graham/Kaige erotic thriller distrib

MGM has picked up U.S. and Canadian distribution rights to “Killing Me Softly,” the Heather Graham starrer that will be the first English-language pic from top Chinese helmer Chen Kaige (“Farewell My Concubine”).

MGM grabbed the rights to the $25 million-budgeted pic for close to $10 million, sources said.

“Killing,” an erotic thriller based on the novel of the same name by Nicci French, is being put together by Montecito Picture Co., the production shingle of ex-Universal topper Tom Pollock and helmer Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters”).

Pollock and Reitman are exec producing. Producers are Michael Chinich, Dan Goldberg, Joe Medjuck and Lynda Myles. Deals for worldwide distribution are in the works.

Pollock and Reitman have a deal with DreamWorks, but that studio passed on handling the pic, apparently partly because of the frankly sexual nature of the material. Ironically, Montecito produced the college sex romp “Road Trip,” which has grossed $68 million in the U.S., for DreamWorks.

Shooting on “Killing” is set to start in London on Oct. 29, with an eye to release in fall 2001. Pic spins the tale of a London research scientist (Graham) who opts out of her comfortable but ordinary relationship with a nice boyfriend and into a dangerously obsessive bond with a handsome and mysterious mountaineer. Production designer-turned-writer Kara Lindstrom penned the script.

Film will mark the first English-lingo effort by any of China’s famed “fifth generation” helmers (which includes such figures as Zhang Yimou and Zhou Xiaowen). Chen’s most recent pic is “The Emperor and the Assassin.” His “Farewell My Concubine” won both the Palme d’Or and the Intl. Critics Prize at Cannes.

MGM has another English-language debut film from a Chinese director opening Friday: “Autumn in New York,” starring Richard Gere and Winona Ryder and helmed by Joan Chen. Pic is the actress’s follow-up to her much-lauded Chinese-lingo directing debut “Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl.”

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