Is South Africa finally bankable?
A year or two ago, says producer Gautam Das, money wasn't available for projects dealing with apartheid. Now Das is prodding a newly hired screenwriter to finish a rewrite on Das' "Biko" project about martyred black South African leader Steve Biko. "Today," said Das, "I don't think I'd have any trouble getting the rest of the money."
Showtime just aired "The Biko Inquest," starring Albert Finney as a lawyer investigating Biko's mysterious death while in South African police custody. Also, executive producer Moctezuma Esparza is developing a film about a white South African caught in racial strife, tentatively titled "The Long Weekend," with Thomas Hulce considering the lead role. Norman Jewison has "Exiles," another Pretoria-set story, in the hopper. And Outtakes knows of at least one heavyweight screenwriter at work on an original script with a South Africa setting.
Meanwhile, Richard Attenborough's "Biko" project, which Universal has scheduled tentatively for production early next year, also is generating rumors--that Attenborough nixed Kenya locations because of terrorist threats and that he favors Howard E. Rollins Jr. as the star. But the director declined to talk about it.