Pretty shingle inks first-look deal

USA pact includes LaBute's third pic for co.

CANNES — USA Films has signed a first-look deal with Pretty Pictures, a new production company formed by filmmaker Neil LaBute and producer Gail Mutrux. As part of the deal, LaBute has agreed to direct a pic for USA Films, his third for the company.

Pretty Pictures will be based at USA’s Beverly Hills offices.

USA most recently released and marketed LaBute’s “Nurse Betty,” which Mutrux produced. LaBute is in post on “Possession,” which stars Gwyneth Paltrow and will be released by USA Stateside, with Warner Bros. Pictures Intl. handling overseas distribution.

“Neil LaBute has been working with us at USA Films since the company’s formation,” said USA Films chairman Scott Greenstein. “He has been one of our core creative collaborators and we’re excited that he’s going to direct a third film for us.”

LaBute, who made his feature writing-directing debut with “In the Company of Men,” also wrote and directed “Your Friends and Neighbors.” Three of his one-act plays were staged as “bash” in Gotham, Los Angeles and London, and he’s prepping the world preem of his latest play, “The Shape of Things,” to be staged at London’s Almeida Theatre.

Mutrux, whose production credits include “Quiz Show” and “Donnie Brasco,” is prepping several projects, including “Kinsey,” written by Bill Condon for him to direct, and “The Keys to the Street,” adapted from the Ruth Rendell novel and slated to be directed by Christopher Nolan (“Memento”).

Pretty’s deal was negotiated for USA by Howard Meyers, senior VP of business affairs, with LaBute repped by Gendler & Kelly and Mutrux repped by Lichter, Grossman, Nichols & Adler.

Separately, USA Films has committed to co-finance the previously announced “Who Goes There?” a World War II-themed drama to be directed by “Young Poisoner’s Handbook” helmer Ben Ross (Daily Variety, March 7).

“Billy Elliott” star Jamie Bell will star in the pic, the first under USA Films’ first-look production deal with Luc Roeg and Charles Finch’s management-production shingle Artists Independent Network. Roeg and Finch will share producing credits on the pic, which is expected to start production in the U.K. this fall.

Penned by Jeff Rawle, who paired with Ross on “Handbook,” pic is based on the true story of a German U-boat that landed its crew in a Welsh village. The film focuses on a boy (Bell) who befriends a German soldier during World War II, only to find out his friend has duped him. USA Films will retain North American distribution rights.