Bedeviled pic finds distributor

Release in sight for 'Webster'

“The Devil and Daniel Webster” is getting out of post-production hell.

Bob Yari’s distribution arm, Yari Film Group Releasing, has bought the embattled film and is planning to distribute it to theaters in the spring.

Exec will build a campaign that he hopes will convey to auds what has gotten lost in the press about pic’s backstory: It’s a “lighthearted comedy” but nonetheless “a message movie about how there are few shortcuts in life.”

Yari will change the title from its devilish original to the more upbeat “Shortcut to Happiness.”

Movie is a remake of the 1941 Walter Huston film about a down-on-his-luck writer who sells his soul to the devil for a chance at greatness.

Its epic backstory seems to confirm its point: There were certainly no shortcuts in pic’s route to the screen.

Lensing on the film wrapped way back in the spring of 2001, but the movie promptly went into a post-production period from which it never emerged.

Alec Baldwin, who stars and also directed, at one point sued producer Cutting Edge Entertainment for what he alleged were unpaid fees. He also threatened to stop work on the film. The two parties settled, but Baldwin eventually pulled his name off the project.

Meanwhile, the film languished in post without finishing funds, as various banks and insurance companies haggled over rights. It also had trouble finding distribution.

Making matters more complicated: producer David Glasser’s Cutting Edge Entertainment was reborn as Splendid Pictures under German film company Splendid Medien. Splendid Medien later ended its relationship with Glasser, who was subsequently hired by Yari.

As this was happening, several versions of “Webster” were cut. Still the film failed to find a distributor.

Yari, however, recently bought the pic from the insurance company that had taken over the rights and provided finishing funds. He is credited as an exec producer.

Yari won’t recut the film, but says he will release a different version than the one he believed caused Baldwin to walk away.

While Baldwin has disavowed any connection to the picture — indeed, Alan Smithee is currently listed as director — Yari said he would extend an olive branch to the helmer-thesp by showing him the latest cut. “We’d love for him to be involved in supporting this film,” Yari said.

Baldwin is hot these days, with acclaimed turns in “The Departed” and NBC comedy “30 Rock.

Yari acknowledged the movie could be a tough sell. “It’s very hard to judge how it will perform, because who knows how the history is going to affect the current perception. The public is very savvy.”

But he also said he felt the performances and a platform release –similar to his successful rollout for “The Illusionist” — could help jump-start word of mouth. “This film has a pedigree of stars,” he said, “and I think many people will be surprised by it.”

Pic also stars Anthony Hopkins, Kim Cattrall and Dan Aykroyd, with Jennifer Love Hewitt cast as the devil.

On Tuesday, Starz revealed the movie as part of a larger buy from Yari, which also will see “The Illusionist” air on the paybox.

More Film

  • Florence Pugh, O. T. Fagbenle, Rachel

    'Black Widow': Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh Go Head-to-Head in First Footage

    Marvel’s “Black Widow” has only been in production for a month, but studio president Kevin Feige still delivered the goods for fans at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. Filmmakers brought an intense sizzle reel of on-location shots, kicked off by a dazzling and bone-crushing fight sequence between lead Scarlett Johansson and her on-screen sister Florence [...]

  • Natalie Portman Thor

    Natalie Portman Returns for 'Thor: Love and Thunder' as Female Thor

    Natalie Portman is coming back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but she’s no one’s love interest this time around. The Oscar winner will play a female god of thunder in the fourth film from the Chris Hemsworth series, titled “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Portman hit the stage at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday to great [...]

  • Fantastic Four

    New 'Fantastic Four' Movie in Development at Marvel

    Marvel is going back to the Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige announced that a new movie based on the superhero group is in the works at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. Further details, however, including a release date, were not revealed. It marks the first Fox property for Disney to mine since the [...]

  • Mahershala AliMarvel Studios panel, Comic-Con International,

    Mahershala Ali to Star in Marvel's 'Blade' Reboot

    Marvel is rebooting the “Blade” series, and has cast Mahershala Ali to star. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige announced the news at Comic-Con on Saturday as the panel’s big ending surprise. Ali also took the stage at the announcement to massive applause, donning the Blade baseball cap. Wesley Snipes previously played the half-vampire superhero in [...]

  • Doctor Strange

    'Doctor Strange' Sequel Billed as First MCU Horror Film at Comic-Con

    A sequel to “Doctor Strange” was announced as expected on Saturday at Marvel’s Comic-Con panel — what we didn’t see coming was the tone. Director Scott Derrickson said the film, titled “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” will mine the original comics and play up “the gothic, the horror.” Derrickson said it will lead [...]

  • Simu Liu Shang-Chi

    Marvel's 'Shang-Chi' Finds Its Lead

    Marvel has found its next superhero. The studio announced that Simu Liu has been tapped to star in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” during its Hall H presentation at Comic Con, joining cast member Awkwafina, who was also announced during the presentation. Additionally, Veteran actor Tony Leung has joined the film as [...]

  • Angelina Jolie The Kept

    Marvel Reveals Cast and Plot Details for 'The Eternals'

    “The Eternals” have arrived. The first film announced at Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con presentation on Saturday, unarguably the hottest ticket of the weekend, confirmed months of speculation by unveiling its cast: Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, Brian Tyree Henry, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff and Don Lee will star as 35,000 -year-old aliens. “This movie [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content