New Line exile eyes Dream job

Katzenberg takes lead in negotiations

Michael De Luca is talking to DreamWorks about taking a top executive post at the company.

If the talks pan out, the former New Line production president will walk away from a producing deal at that studio worth $105 million in production financing over a three-year period.

DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg is taking the lead in the current talks. De Luca’s role at DreamWorks calls for the exec to report initially to production heads Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald.

De Luca’s ascension would ease the executive burdens on that duo, giving them more time to concentrate on producing films.

The husband and wife team of Parkes and MacDonald has had remarkable success at DreamWorks filling a combination of roles. While they initiated and oversaw DreamWorks’ films like “Gladiator” and “Time Machine,” they also produce films made outside the studio, like the sequel to “Men in Black.”

While he was unceremoniously fired after a bad New Line streak, De Luca’s stock has remained high in Hollywood. He left behind several promising pictures that could right the New Line ship, including “Rush Hour 2” and the mega-budgeted “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

That De Luca seems poised to continue as a “suit” is surprising — and not just because his wardrobe staples are jeans, T-shirt and sneakers.

Many surmised that De Luca’s production deal at New Line was simply too lucrative for him to turn down, even though his relations were clearly strained with New Line toppers Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, who named Toby Emmerich to take De Luca’s place.

Signed as part of a re-up deal several years ago when New Line was riding high with De Luca-generated hits like “Austin Powers,” “Rush Hour,” “Blade” and “Boogie Nights,” the producing pact had lucrative financing and “put” pictures. Despite that, it became clear that De Luca’s heart remained in being a production executive.

De Luca had recently been flirting with several different job offers, including setting up a company with former Warner Bros. chief Terry Semel, before the latter took the reins of troubled web portal Yahoo!

De Luca began negotiations with Katzenberg last Tuesday.

Hiring De Luca — whose strength lies in talent relations — could be a smart move by DreamWorks, a product-hungry studio under pressure to continue its movie momentum after re-upping with Universal.

During De Luca’s eight-year tenure as New Line production president, that company grew from a B-picture outfit into a studio that drew directors like P.T. Anderson, Brett Ratner, David Fincher and Andrew Niccol and stars like Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Chris Tucker and Jim Carrey.

(Claude Brodesser and Charles Lyons contributed to this report.)

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