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Scout’s report: 3 pix poised for multiplexes

Tykwer’s scent of an obsession: Perfume — The Story of a Murderer

Another high-profile gamble by Bernd Eichinger, one of Europe’s most inspired mavericks. For Eichinger, it was neither easy nor cheap to persuade author Patrick Suskind to part with the film rights to his 1985 worldwide bestseller about an olfactory genius in 18th century France whose obsession with creating the perfect perfume turns him into a serial killer. Yet he succeeded where many Hollywood A-list helmers failed and, despite people’s apprehension about a pic revolving around scent, Eichinger managed to raise the $59 million budget.

Movie stars Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman and British newcomer Ben Whishaw as the scent-obsessed murderer Grenouille. Whishaw is a wild card, but if his brilliantly neurotic Hamlet at the Old Vic in London is anything to go by, he certainly has the talent to pull off this difficult role.

Eichinger enlisted fellow German Tom Tykwer of “Run Lola Run” fame to helm the picture, and production got under way in Munich, Barcelona and the lavender fields of Provence this summer. Although the bolshy Eichinger and the brainy Tykwer seemed like an odd couple to some, they formed a tight unit on set. Eichinger was always close to the monitor, but there was no doubt that Tykwer was sitting on the director’s chair.

Tykwer says he wants to evoke the scents described in the book through emotive imagery. For some scenes, that involved covering the streets of Barcelona with black soot, 17 tons of dead fish, mud and animal intestines. “The film has the audience identify with Grenouille’s very extreme and very detailed perspective on the world,” says Tykwer, “but the viewer will come to understand that he is craving what we’re all looking for: appreciation and love.”

Pic is set for release in fall 2006.

Sci-fi reaches Boyle’s point: Sunshine

Fifty years from now a spaceship goes on a mission to reignite a dying sun — that’s the premise of Danny Boyle’s $50 million sci-fi thriller “Sunshine” (working title) currently shooting in Three Mills Studio in East London.

“It’s a story of eight people under immense pressure and how they start burning up psychologically and physically as they get closer to the most powerful thing in our universe,” says producer Andrew MacDonald, who’s been working with Boyle since his first feature, “Shallow Grave.”

Based on an original script by another Boyle regular, Alex Garland, who penned “28 Days Later” and the best-selling novel that “The Beach” was based on, “Sunshine” takes inspiration from Wolfgang Petersen’s “Das Boot.”

The nail-biting claustrophobia that characterized Petersen’s submarine classic can already be felt on the elaborate set, which includes eight stages, 17 sets, detailed models and three film units. Boyle laughs as he admits he is “beyond cabin fever” as he stands in the cramped cockpit, setting up the next shot with German-born lenser Alwin Kuechler.

Kuechler’s atmospheric signature look combined with an inspired production design, which includes golden space suits, should make “Sunshine” stand out from the sci-fi crowd. Indeed, its production design and below-the-line cost that soak up most of the budget. The cast is relatively low-key with Michelle Yeoh being the biggest name in the ensemble.

All thesps have to speak with an American accent and MacDonald stresses that at this budget level the pic has to aim at the U.S. as much as international audiences. “The concept behind this is big, it’s about the whole of the world. But we’re making it in England because that’s where we know best how to make movies.”

Webber’s feast: Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask

The world’s most sophisticated cannibal is once again on the lose in “Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask,” currently shooting in Prague. Produced by Dino and Martha de Laurentiis, the $75 million four-way European co-production is helmed by “Girl With a Pearl Earring” director Peter Webber, who’s enjoying directing “some action rather than just actors not saying very much and staring at each other intensely in quiet rooms.”

Webber says the pic will be completely different from the previous Hannibal outings, “Silence of the Lambs,” “Hannibal” and “Red Dragon,” all of which starred Anthony Hopkins as the suave man-eater. This time around Hannibal the Cannibal will be played by French thesp Gaspard Ulliel (“A Very Long Engagement”) and the story is about his evolution into a monster.

“We had the idea for the film when we were doing the international publicity tour for ‘Red Dragon.’ The journalists kept suggesting we should make a film about the young Hannibal,” says Martha de Laurentiis, who then approached Thomas Harris, the scribbler of the Hannibal Lecter novels, to pen both the screenplay and the book about the story of young Hannibal.

The plot moves from WWII Lithuania, Hannibal’s birthplace, to Paris in the ’50s, where he meets his Aristotle in the form of Gong Li. Webber won’t disclose any more of the plot but jokes: “Eating is an important theme in the film. But there won’t be any references to French cuisine.”

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