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IFC has 12-year itch; Tyrese in ‘Fast’ crowd

Helmer reunites with 'Tape' thesp for decade spanning project

Director Richard Linklater has set Patricia Arquette and Oscar-nominated “Training Day” star Ethan Hawke to topline an untitled film he’ll start shooting in Texas this summer — and finish in 12 years.

The Texas-born director, whose career began with “Dazed and Confused,” will do with fiction what has previously only worked with documentaries like “Hoop Dreams” and “42: Forty Two Up.”

He will frame a linear plot around the physical maturation of a child in a film being financed by IFC Productions. Anne Walker-McBay is producing, and IFC’s Caroline Kaplan and Jonathan Sehring will exec produce with John Sloss, whose Cinetic Media made the deal with CAA.

“I’ve long wanted to tell the story of a parent-child relationship that follows a boy from the first through the 12th grade and ends with him going off to college,” Linklater said. “But the dilemma is that kids change so much that it is impossible to cover that much ground.” That was until Linklater had the idea to cast a kid and shoot a few weeks of the story every year. After an extensive search, he cast a 7-year-old named Eller Salmon, who will become the centerpiece of the film.

“He’s this precocious kid whose dad is a musician, and whose mom is a dancer and an actress,” Linklater said. “This was a hard choice, because it’s such a leap of faith for everyone involved. His parents are cool, they’re artists who appreciate the artistic process and were up for this. And I am totally ready to adapt the story to whatever he is going through. Even if he’s got acne, we’ll go with that.”

Linklater has worked before with Hawke in “Before Sunrise” and “Tape,” but this will be his first film with Arquette. She just played woman covered with fur in “Human Nature,” a job that seems mundane compared to what Linklater is asking. “Ethan plays the errant father who pops in now and then, but the key is the mother and son,” Linklater said. “Patricia and I are both parents and have had long conversations about what happens and how this can work.” Linklater also cajoled financing from IFC, which co-financed his last film, the animated “A Waking Life,” and also financed “Tape.”

“It’s a daunting challenge to get a film like this financed, who wants to wait 12 years to get a return on their money?” Linklater asked. “I pitched it like we’d be doing a short film every year, and end up spending a couple million dollars that low budget features usually cost.” Linklater knows both he and his thesps will keep making movies over the next decade, so he’ll be as flexible with scheduling as he is with storyline. “You have to trust that life’s twists and turns will be interesting, even if you can’t predict what they will be,” said Linklater, who’s also plotting a part-docu, part-fictional film about Texas high school football players for Sony Pictures Classics. The Gersh/3Arts-repped Arquette will start the film even though she’s now starring in the Matthew Bright-directed “Tiptoes” with Matthew McConaughey, Kate Beckinsale and Gary Oldman. She’ll follow with the Andy Davis-directed “Holes,” opposite Jon Voight and Sigourney Weaver and she’s talking about a reteam with “Flirting with Disaster” helmer David O. Russell on a pic to shoot next year.

DIESEL-FUELED SALARY RISE: As a deal to sequelize Revolution’s summer entry “XXX” puts Vin Diesel into the rarified ranks of $20 million per pic players, Universal is in early talks with “Baby Boy” star Tyrese to join Paul Walker in a sequel to “The Fast and the Furious” which Diesel dropped out of. Diesel’s “XXX” sequel payday marks a meteoric rise, considering he made about $2 million for the first “Fast and the Furious,” rose to $10 million on “XXX” and $12.5 million on “The Chronicles of Riddick.” The deal, pre-negotiated by Endeavor and the Firm will bring Diesel a “XXX2” salary of $20 million against 10% gross, sources said. U, meanwhile, hasn’t fixed on a money deal yet with Tyrese, nor has it replaced director Rob Cohen, who exited because he would only do that sequel with both Walker and Diesel.

DISHINGS: While Diane Lane’s drawing the lion’s share of praise for Adrian Lyne’s “Unfaithful,” it was Olivier Martinez’s charm that made her extramarital liason plausible. Martinez is in Europe making “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” for Showtime, a remake of the 1961 Warren Beatty pic. Martinez stars with Helen Mirren and Anne Bancroft. His ICM reps are looking to capitalize on thesp’s “Unfaithful” momentum…Though the USA Films shakeup fueled speculation that it will nix the F-64 deal there, Dish hears talks are on track for the fledgling company being formed by Steven Soderbergh, Spike Jonze, David Fincher, and Alexander Payne. Since Dish broke news of a venture that will give the directors domestic ownership over their pics, doubt has surfaced that the venture will even happen. The quartet is as determined as ever, Dish hears…Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman usually haunt projects on the scale of “Band of Brothers.” But they are crowing over the staying power of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” which IFC opened April 19. It has grown from 110 screens to 247, en route to a 500-screen rollout, and it has maintained a per screen average north of $5,000. With gross north of $4 million, the pic has grossed its cost despite almost zero advertising, and CBS is eyeing a series version for midseason. Pic came about after Rita Wilson saw Nia Vardalos’ one-woman stage show and told her husband, who with Goetzman made the pic deal and series pilot. Vardalos wrote and starred in the pic and also starred in the pilot after writing it with Marge McCall (“Just Shoot Me”). “It’s the first time we’ve done a low-budget indie feature, and it has been a purely word-of-mouth movie that has connected with its audience and is being fueled by old-fashioned word of mouth,” Goetzman said.