Fortissimo in the ‘Skin’ trade with Araki

Antidote gets boost from co-finance deal

Cranking up the company’s growing role as feature film co-financier, Fortissimo Film Sales has boarded the Gregg Araki feature “Mysterious Skin,” being produced by Antidote Films toppers Mary Jane Skalski and Jeff Levy-Hinte with the director.

Fortissimo will figure as a co-producer, with company co-chairmen Michael J. Werner and Wouter Barendrecht taking exec producer credit and contributing a little less than half the undisclosed budget.

Adapted by Araki from Scott Heim’s novel, the drama follows two boys who meet at age 18 and discover a common past that has shaped them in completely different ways.

“I’ve never been more excited about making a film than I am about ‘Mysterious Skin,’ ” said Araki. “The book moved me to tears when I first read it back in 1996 and it’s stayed with me all this time.”

Casting agent Shannon Makhanian recently became involved to help find actors to play the lead characters at ages 8 and 18.

Skalski produced Sundance award winner “The Station Agent,” by Tom McCarthy, while Levy-Hinte shepherded Catherine Hardwicke’s “Thirteen” and Lisa Cholodenko’s “Laurel Canyon.” The Antidote team have been chosen among Variety‘s 2003 10 Producers to Watch and will be feted at tonight’s event in Cannes.

Fortissimo previously came aboard to co-finance and handle international sales on “Party Monster,” directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. The company’s association with Araki stretches back to his 1993 feature “Totally Fucked Up,” which Fortissimo handled for international sales.

“Gregg Araki is undoubtedly one of the industry’s most innovative independent directors, with a unique and individual style of filmmaking,” said Werner. “We’ve been looking for an opportunity to work with Gregg again. Mary-Jane Skalski, who also serves as Fortissimo’s U.S. acquisition scout, has presented an exciting and prestigious new production opportunity for us.”

Fortissimo’s exec producer credits include the Pang Brothers’ upcoming horror sequel “The Eye 2” and Cannes competition entry “The Moab Story: The Tulse Luper Suitcases — Part 1,” directed by Peter Greenaway.

On the recently completed “Last Life in the Universe,” from Thai helmer Pen-ek Ratanaruang (“Mon-rak Transistor”), Barendrecht served as producer, with Werner covering exec producer duties. The pic is tipped for a Venice fest berth and is a project of Bohemian Films, the joint venture formed between Barendrecht and Werner with Fran Rubel Kuzui and Kaz Kuzui.

Additionally, Fortissimo co-financed Dutch director Alex van Warmerdam’s “Grimm,” also likely to bow in Venice; Wong Kar-wai’s “2046,” now in its final days of shooting; and “Japanese Story,” directed by Sue Brooks, which premieres at Cannes in Un Certain Regard.

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