Russia invades Hollywood by ‘Car’

Billy Bob Thornton is co-writing and directing “And Then We Drove,” a road movie the filmmaker describes as “ethereal.”

The tentatively titled “Drove,” now being scripted by Thornton and his longtime writing partner Tom Epperson, is one of the first of up to six under-$20 million features to spring from the new $120 million film fund formed by Alexander Rodnyansky’s AR Films and Geyer Kosinski’s Media Talent Group.

Both the fund and “Drove” were developed during the production of tonight’s Berlinale competition world premiere, “Jayne Mansfield’s Car,” the producers’ initial collaboration and Thornton’s first narrative helming effort in more than a decade. (“Car” was not part of the fund.)

Rodnyansky, who is producing alongside Kosinski, said he hopes to receive the first draft in March and aims to start a U.S.-based shoot sometime this year.

“I found the story amazing. It’s a pretty new combination of genres to put into one movie,” said Rodnyansky, who heard the “Drove” plotline in detail from Thornton on the “Car” set. “It’s based on his personal experiences in many ways.”

Thornton said the film is about “a guy who’s on a road trip and picks up this girl along the way, and what happens to them. It’s about the question of life: ‘What is this? Where do I fit in?’ ”

An insider said the film is partly inspired by Thornton’s wild and well-documented relationship with ex-wife Angelina Jolie, which Rodnyansky confirmed. “It’s very much based on that experience as well,” he said.”

The story takes place all across the U.S., with stops in Los Angeles, the South and the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona.

Thornton said he’s received several distribution offers for his 2011 doc feature on Willie Nelson, “The King of Luck,” since its SXSW premiere, but he’s holding out for one with a theatrical release.

Rodnyansky just established AR Films U.S., a production and sales arm created in partnership with “Car” exec producer Sergei Bespalov’s production/sales outfit Aldamisa Entertainment, and eventually plans to use it for presales on all his productions (including AR/MTG features) and outside projects.

AR and MTG plan to announce more films from their fund in the coming weeks. Sales for “Car” are being handled by WME Global and Hyde Park at the EFM.

Thornton is repped by WME and Media Talent Group.