Spy pic coin spooks King

Financing for 'Good Shepherd' out in cold

Graham King’s Initial Entertainment Group has pulled out of financing “The Good Shepherd,” a pic set to star Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro under De Niro’s direction.

The film was in pre-production and expected to be the next project for both actors, with domestic distribution going through Universal Pictures. IEG handled foreign sales on the title.

With a budget north of $110 million and U keeping a firm cap on its investment, the foreign market found it tough to accommodate the project. It’s a history of the CIA, as seen through the eyes of career agent James Wilson. Eric Roth wrote the script.

The studio says it remains committed to the project, but production won’t go forward unless another financier can be found.

King, who has a track record of finding independent financing for big-budget, star-driven dramas such as Di Caprio’s upcoming “The Aviator” as well as “Ali,” “Traffic” and “Gangs of New York,” was to produce “The Good Shepherd” with De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. Francis Ford Coppola, Rick Schwartz and Chris Brigham are credited as executive producers.

Measure of market

“If the marketplace got better, I’d love to make this movie,” King told Daily Variety. “It’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read (but) you can’t make the movie for any less than we have it budgeted for. I certainly wouldn’t disrespect Bob by getting him to cut the budget of the film.”

“The Good Shepherd” has a history of overcoming stumbling blocks. American Zoetrope originally developed it at MGM. Philip Kaufman was once attached to direct, as was the late John Frankenheimer.

“This project has been a labor of love for the past nine years,” said Rosenthal, De Niro’s partner in Tribeca Prods. “In the world’s ever-changing political climate, this subject matter is now more important than ever and we are extremely committed to this project.”

Second tale

“The Good Shepherd” would be De Niro’s sophomore directorial outing. The actor made his helming debut with “A Bronx Tale,” in which he starred opposite the film’s screenwriter, Chazz Palmintieri. A coming-of-age tale set in the 1960s, that film was much smaller in budget and scope than “The Good Shepherd.” Savoy Pictures distributed the film, which earned $17.3 million in North America.

De Niro is a valued member of the Universal firmament. Tribeca, which has a first-look deal with the studio, produced the hit “Meet the Parents” and its sequel, “Meet the Fockers,” which bows Dec. 22.

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