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Gardner set to try Plan B

Co. developing nearly 20 projects as prexy steps in

Veteran Paramount Pictures production exec Dede Gardner is leaving the studio to become president of Plan B, the Warner Bros.-based producing shingle headed by Brad Grey, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

Gardner has long been considered the leading candidate to take the high-profile job (Daily Variety, March 14) but had to wait until her Par contract expired. Deal is up at the end of the month.

Gardner moved up the ranks at Par from creative exec to exec VP and steered films including “Election,” “Zoolander” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” She most recently has been working on the Charles Shyer-directed remake of “Alfie” that stars Jude Law, and was developing pics including the Curtis Hanson-produced “Work Freak,” a potential Jack Black vehicle.

Grey, who runs a successful management and production company, is seeking the same success on the feature level and joined forces with Pitt and Aniston, who are clients of the management company, to form Plan B.

Gardner joins the company at a time when it has a slew of potentially high-profile projects and has emerged as a major player in the material marketplace.

Plan B just got WB to make a seven-figure outright purchase of memoir “A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl,” Mariane Pearl’s account of how her journalist husband was kidnapped and murdered by Pakistani terrorists.

Plan B is developing nearly 20 projects, including “Hatfields and McCoys” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Former, a drama about the famed family feud, will star Pitt and is being spearheaded by “The Insider” team of director Michael Mann and scribe Eric Roth; latter is an adaptation of the Mark Haddon novel that “Harry Potter” scribe Steve Kloves has adapted and will direct.

The Plan B logo will first be seen on a film next summer in the Wolfgang Petersen-directed Pitt starrer “Troy,” but its first major homegrown production is “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” a Tim Burton-directed pic to star Johnny Depp. Production begins next spring in London’s Pinewood Studios.

Gardner began her career at Innovative Artists and WMA before moving to Paramount. She will work with a Plan B creative team that consists of Kristin Hahn, Kassie Evashevski, Jeremy Kleiner and Susie Fitzgerald. Brillstein-Grey partners Cynthia Pett-Dante (Pitt’s manager) and Marc Gurvitz (Aniston’s manager) are also active, and the business operations are headed by B-G vice chairman Jon Liebman.

Gardner was plan A in that she was Plan B’s top choice. Though it took nine months for Gardner to finish her contract, Grey feels she will have been worth the wait.

“Dede is a tremendous executive with a great work ethic, excellent taste and a passion for getting movies made,” Grey said. “We are thrilled to welcome her to Plan B, where we’re looking forward to having her move our slate of terrific projects forward.”

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