Inside Move: ‘Passion’ ignites interest

Distribs lining up to release Mel's movie in N. America

Interest is heating up for Mel Gibson’s controversial Aramaic and Latin-language pic “The Passion.”

A number of distributors — Newmarket, Paramount Classics, Sony Classics and Lions Gate, among them — are talking to Icon Prods.’ Bruce Davey and ICM chairman Jeff Berg about a possible North American deal, even though they have yet to see the pic. Gibson’s Icon produced the pic, and Berg reps it.

Newmarket already has a history with Icon — it has financed past Gibson pics, including “Hamlet.”

Reps for Icon Prods., which produced the pic about the last 12 hours of Christ’s life before his crucifixion, said no distribution decisions would be made until after Labor Day. Whoever ends up with the film may still have to tackle the issue of its title, as Miramax has already laid claim to it for a period romantic drama to be produced through Killer Films.

That pic, which may star Gwyneth Paltrow and Juliette Binoche, is based on a Jeanette Winterson novel called “The Passion” and set during the Napoleonic Wars.