The Big Question of the Week: Which (if any) of the "Puttnam projects" will survive at Columbia Pictures?
It's Hollywood tradition that when the boss goes, so go his movie projects. The next regime looks at them askance.
With David Puttnam departing after a 15-month visit in the wake of the Columbia/Tri-Star merger, which of his projects in development will move ahead or die?
Many Puttnam-approved movies are ready or close to ready to open--but some projects are vulnerable. A partial round-up of those:
"To Kill a Priest"--The first of his European productions, scheduled to begin filming in France shortly. Directed by Agnieszka Holland ("Bitter Harvest"). Stars Christopher Lambert and Ed Harris. The tale of a Polish priest targeted for assassination.
"Ghostbusters II," "Jagged Edge II" and "Karate Kid III"--Puttnam once told Outtakes that "sequels are an important asset for any studio. They should be of comparable or superior quality to the films they spawn from. I'm opposed to them only when there seems to be no other reason to make them than the fact the earlier film was a great success."
Scripts for all three have been written. A spokesman for Ivan Reitman said "Ghostbusters II" was close but not this year.
The DeMille project--Writer-director Richard Brooks is developing this Hollywood blacklist saga based upon a Directors Guild confrontation. He told us he's awaiting guild approval to use some meeting transcripts. How about survival? "I've been in this situation before. Sometimes you're lucky and sometimes not. It's like someone dropped the ball in the outfield and everyone's waiting to see who'll pick it up. I'm really not sure whether to console or congratulate David."
"Toys"--A Barry Levinson comedy about family factions vying for control of a toy company. Puttnam announced it as a Columbia project, but Levinson associate Mark Johnson said it's owned by 20th Century Fox: "It's up in the air. I think anyone can get it if they pay Fox's development costs, but I also understand Fox may again be interested in it."
"Napoli"--A comedy from Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais, who made "Vice Versa" for Puttnam (it opens in early 1988). Currently being written in Italy, a spokeswoman said Clement and Le Frenais are confident it will be made regardless of who becomes the studio chief.
"Bad Karma"--From the producers of Columbia's "Vibes" (opening in early '88), it's based on a precedent-setting murder case in Berkeley in 1969. Producer Deborah Blum said it's in a very early stage and too soon to make predictions about its future.
"Chernobyl"--Vet producer Stanley Kramer said it's his first time he's experienced the possibility of film cancellation due to changes in studio management. "I think the film will happen because it's important. Still, a lot can happen between now and next year when we're supposed to film. We have a Soviet writer doing the first draft as we speak."
"Old Gringo"--Jane Fonda Productions' adaptation of the Carlos Fuentes' novel, described as "an epic love triangle set against the Mexican revolution." To be directed, supposedly before the end of the year, by Luis Puenzo ("The Official Story"). Fonda's deal with Columbia predates Puttnam, although a company spokesman said Puttnam was actively involved in the project.
"Blind Luck"--Thriller about a blind boy who "witnesses" a murder. Exec producer Craig Zadan told us: "Everything's in limbo. We're waiting for answers from the studio. Locations had been set and we were seconds away from going to pre-production. Basically I'm optimistic because of the success of 'Fatal Attraction'--it's that type of thriller."
"The Far Side"--Based on the comic strip by Gary Larson. A script has been completed by Alan Rudolph, who would also direct. Rudolph is scouting locations for a possible March start and couldn't be reached at press time. From Alive, which produced "Destiny," an '88 release that was an early acquisition by Puttnam.
"Him and Me"--A project by West German film maker Dorris Dorrie ("Men"). Described as a bizarre sex comedy. Also part of Puttnam's European program that also has announced projects with Poland's Krzysztof Zanussi, Yugoslavia's Emir Kusturica, Czechoslovakia's Jiri Menzl and the Soviet Union's Elem Klimov. There's also a project with Lino Brocca of the Philippines about a wealthy man who goes to a small village to find a bride.
Oh, by the way, just days ago (before the fall), Puttnam acquired "Pulse" for the studio for release in early 1988. It's a thriller by Paul Golding that puts a group of a people in a house against malevolent electrical appliances that seemingly have minds of their own.