Franchise reels in ‘Fish’

Pic is part of company's first-look deal with WB

Elie Samaha’s Franchise Pictures has begun shooting Charley Stadler’s black comedy “Dead Fish,” starring Gary Oldman.

Pic is part of a new raft of films that Franchise is bankrolling for distribution both through its first-look deal at Warner Bros. and through other outlets.

Franchise will soon start principal photography on “Papa,” a biopic about the life of Ernest Hemingway, starring Anthony Hopkins and directed by Adrian Noble. Meg Ryan is in talks to join the cast. Samaha is producing “Papa” with his partner David Bergstein.

Franchise also just wrapped production on “The Wendell Baker Story,” which marks the directorial debut of brothers Luke and Andrew Wilson and was scripted by Luke Wilson.

“Dead Fish,” produced with Orange Pictures and the IMF in association with SE8 Group, is a story of mistaken identity and unrequited romance, starring Oldman as a hit man and Robert Carlyle as a debt collector. Cast also includes Terence Stamp, Billy Zane, Elena Ayana, Andrew Lee Potts and Jimi Mistry. Dan Maag, Philip Schulze-Deyle and Mathias Deyle are producing with Samaha and Bergstein. Douglas Urbanski will exec produce.

“Wendell Baker” also has a large ensemble cast, including the Wilson brothers, Seymour Cassell, Will Ferrell, Eddie Griffin, Kris Kristoffersen, Eva Mendez and Harry Dean Stanton. Mark Johnson and David Bushnell are producing with Samaha and Bergstein. Story revolves around a good-natured ex-con working at a retirement home.

Franchise is also putting the final post-production touches on several films, including the sequel to 2000’s Bruce Willis comedy “The Whole Nine Yards.” Originally scheduled to hit theaters in 2003, “The Whole Ten Yards” will now get a wide release from Warner Bros. on April 9. Franchise also produced the David Mamet film, “Spartan,” which Warners will release March 12.