Initial Entertainment Group (IEG), which last week bought international rights to high profile Harrison Ford-starrer Traffic, has unveiled another acquisition - the rights to historical adventure Smoke And Mirrors, one of the most famous never-produced scripts in Hollywood in recent years. IEG will fully finance the film and handle worldwide rights.
Catherine Zeta Jones, who'll also act in Traffic, is in talks to star in the movie, which is being produced by Joel Douglas and Kevin Brodie through their joint production company Prostar. Brodie, whose only major credit is A Dog OF Flanders, will direct.
Initial's Graham King and Andreas Klein, head of publicly traded rights trader Splendid Films which last year bought 49% of Initial, will executive produce.
Written by Lee Batchler and Janet Scott Batchler, the script tells the true story of Jean-Robert Houdin, the famed French illusionist and his young partner Collette who are sent by the French government to Algeria in the 1850s to expose a religious sorcerer inciting revolution against the French colonials. Harry Houdini took his name from Houdin.
Smoke And Mirrors was first optioned as a spec script in 1993 by Andy Vajna's Cinergi Pictures Entertainment for $500,000. Director Frank Marshall and Sean Connery quickly became attached and the film was set up as a $45m co-production between The Kennedy/Marshall Co, Longbow Productions and Cinergi with Buena Vista taking domestic rights through its deal with Cinergi. Shooting was scheduled for Morocco in Feb 1994.
However, within months, both Marshall and Connery had dropped out after a total of some $2m had been invested in developing the project. Not to be put off, Vajna subsequently rekindled Connery's interest and even got close to securing Mel Gibson for a key supporting role. But the film never came together. Even recently, when Vajna and Mario Kassar reteamed in C-2 Films, he was touting Smoke And Mirrors as a tentpole project, but it since reverted to the Batchlers' own Farren Entertainment.
The script was championed at IEG by David A Jones, the brother of Catherine Zeta Jones, who is a vice president, creative affairs, for the company. Negotiating the deal on behalf of IEG was COO Colin Cotter and Kevin Brodie negotiated on behalf of Farren Entertainment.
Zeta Jones' Zeta Films, run by another brother Lyndon Jones, recently struck a two year, exclusive production deal with IEG and is based in IEG's Beverly Hills offices. And keeping it in the family, Smoke And Mirrors producer Joel Douglas is the brother of Michael Douglas, Zeta Jones' fiance.