Darabont plays for Par

Topper Lansing, studio history drew helmer

Frank Darabont’s Darkwoods Prods. has signed a three-year first-look production deal at Paramount Pictures, ending the shingle’s association with Castle Rock.

Darabont, best known for writing and directing “The Green Mile” and “The Shawshank Redemption,” credited studio topper Sherry Lansing and Par’s history for convincing him to make the deal.

Darabont said his goal is to seek new projects of all genres along with continuing to develop the Darkwoods slate, noting Paramount will review those projects with an eye to possibly joining in as a financier — except for “Fahrenheit 451,” which he expects to remain at Warner Bros. Darabont is finishing the script and is attached to direct the adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic fantasy-drama, also produced by Castle Rock, Icon’s Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey and Storyline’s Neil Meron and Craig Zadon and Matthew Bourne.

The other Darkwoods projects include a trio that Darabont also would be likely to direct — biopics “Tokyo Rose” and “Rivers in the Desert: William Mulholland and the Inventing of Los Angeles,” along with thriller “Mine.” Others include action-adventures “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze” and “Way of the Rat,” romancer “Standing Down” and dramas “Runt of the Litter” and “Back Roads.”

Lansing cited Darabont’s multi-hyphenate as a writer, director and producer. “He is the rarest of talents, an artist who can express genius in many genres,” she said. “I believe he can do anything. It is a privilege to have him working with us at Paramount.”

Anna Garduno remains prexy of production for Darkwoods with Denise Huth as VP.

“We want to build credibility by focusing on quality, like Jersey or Imagine,” Darabont said.

Darabont’s deal with Castle Rock yielded “The Salton Sea,” “The Green Mile” and “The Majestic;” he directed the latter two. He’s exec producer on DreamWorks’ “Collateral,” toplined by Tom Cruise, and wrote a draft of the screenplay that helped attract director Michael Mann.

Darabont has also completed the screenplay for the long-awaited “Indiana Jones 4,” which may shoot this year with Harrison Ford starring, Steven Spielberg directing and George Lucas exec producing. Par is hoping to distribute in 2005.

“I’ve finished my work, so now it’s in the hands of God, or Spielberg and Lucas if you prefer,” he added.

Darabont’s deal is the first announced by Paramount since Donald De Line became studio co-prexy and vice chair of the motion picture group three weeks ago. “One of the nicest gifts I got when I came to Paramount was having Frank as a partner,” De Line said.

Darabont, who’s repped by CAA, also is working on the 10th-anniversary DVD of “The Shawshank Redemption,” which will include 90 minutes of extras such as his commentary, documentaries and a parody of the pic. A theatrical re-release is planned for September.

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