Reliance revs up slate

Film unit unveils slew of deals, projects

Mumbai-based Reliance disclosed Thursday it has spent $10 million-$15 million in development financing on 20 projects announced a year ago at Cannes.

At last year’s fest, Reliance unveiled development silos with Nicolas Cage’s Saturn Films, Jim Carrey’s JC 23 Entertainment and Chris Columbus’ 1492 Pictures.

Among the projects in active development now are an adaptation of Liquid Comics’ graphic novel “Voodoo Child” with Saturn Films and laffer “O’Gunn” with JC 23 Entertainment.

Jonathan Lemkin is writing the script for “Voodoo Child” as a potential vehicles for Cage, while Ed Cannistraci and Fred Seton are penning “O’Gunn” to star Carrey.

Reliance has optioned three properties with 1492 Pictures for Columbus to direct: a Stephen King short story, “Things They Left Behind,” about 9/11 survivors; Thurston Clarke’s book “The Last Campaign”; and David Dorfman’s script “It’s a Miserable Life.”

None of the companies would comment on the projects.

In addition to the previously announced graphic novel adaptations “Youngblood” and “Infinity,” Brett Ratner’s Rat Entertainment is developing a John DeLorean project with James Toback.

Julia Roberts’ Red Om Films, with which Reliance inked a development deal in February, is working on a project about Dan Eldon, the British photojournalist who was killed in Africa.

Reliance has also inked a production deal with “Bend It Like Beckham” producer Deepak Nayar’s Kintop Pictures. Two English-language projects are being developed: romantic comedy “Swinging With the Finkels” and psychological thriller “Tucker and Dale.”

“We try to respond quickly when we’re optioning a project, but we’re not indiscreet,” Reliance chairman Amit Khanna said. “It enables the talent we’re working with to feel a sense of empowerment.”

In September, Reliance and DreamWorks announced a joint venture that would allow DreamWorks to separate from Paramount and resume life as a standalone company. But when the economy crashed, DreamWorks was unable to raise the money it needed to meet the terms of the Reliance deal.

It was a year ago at Cannes that the deal between DreamWorks and Reliance began to gel, as DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider and Steven Spielberg attended the fest for the world premiere of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

Now, after months of being hamstrung by the credit freeze, DreamWorks (working with J.P. Morgan) is close to raising the $325 million debt financing it needs to trigger a matching $325 million initial investment from Reliance.

Insiders say the Reliance-DreamWorks deal should close within a month. DreamWorks and Reliance, whose top execs are attending the Cannes Film Festival, declined to comment.

In February, at the 11th hour, DreamWorks inked a distribution deal with Disney instead of Universal. Disney pact includes marketing and distribution for up to 30 DreamWorks films.

Snider hasn’t announced which projects would be covered first by the new financing, but the first outing is believed to be “Dinner With Schmucks.”

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