Panzer’s ‘Escape’ from development

Miramax takes N.A. rights to Mulcahy-helmed actioner

Miramax Films has taken North American rights to “Escape” (a.k.a. “Midnight Return”), which Russell Mulcahy will direct for Davis Panzer Prods.

The $25 million action project, which is being sold internationally by IAC Films, is effectively a sequel to Alan Parker’s 1978 movie “Midnight Express,” although it is not being marketed as such.

It is based on the book “The Return” by Billy Hayes, which recounts what happened after he broke out of a Turkish prison in “Midnight Express.”

The book details his attempts to evade capture on the run, and his decision to break back into jail to liberate a fellow American prisoner. The leader of the country’s oppressed minority, whose life they saved when he was previously incarcerated with them, assists the duo.

“Escape,” scripted by David Abramowitz and John Nichols, keeps that basic plot, but relocates the story to an unidentified, generic Arab country from Turkey. It also moves the action to the present day.

“This is a completely stand-alone action movie,” says producer Bill Panzer. “It is not a political film, but a contemporary story about two guys who end up in trouble in a very, very foreign land.”

The project has been in development with Davis Panzer and IAC for several years, going through dozens of re-writes. At one point, Ridley Scott was on board to direct and produce. But the arrival of Miramax as a partner, and the signing of Mulcahy to direct, has finally brought it close to fruition. Miramax is now working with the producers to nail down the casting.

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