William Hurt stars in Canada/ U.K. coproduction Varian’s War

Montreal: In the Canada/u.k. coproduction Varian's War: A Forgotten Hero, William Hurt plays Varian Fry, an American editor who travels to the port city of Marseilles in 1940, and at great risk to his own life, rescues many prominent European artists...

Montreal: In the Canada/u.k. coproduction Varian’s War: A Forgotten Hero, William Hurt plays Varian Fry, an American editor who travels to the port city of Marseilles in 1940, and at great risk to his own life, rescues many prominent European artists and thousands of others from Nazi persecution.

The all-star cast includes Julia Ormond, Matt Craven, Alan Arkin, as a caricaturist hated by the Nazis who uses his artistic skills to forge passports, and Lynn Redgrave in the role of Alma Werfel, a refugee harboring a precious cargo.

The Canadian supporting cast includes Christopher Heyerdahl, Remy Girard, Gloria Carlin, Dorothee Berryman, as a brothel madame, Pascale Montpetit, Vlasta Vrana, Joel Miller, Maury Chaykin and Aubert Pallascio.

Among the influential cultural figures rescued by Fry’s Vichy underground network were Marc Chagall, Heinrich Mann, Hannah Arendt and Franz and Alma Werfel.

Lionel Chetwynd (Hanoi Hilton, P.T. Barnum, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz) wrote and directed Varian’s War. The $9.7-million production was filmed entirely as a feature, and is an official coproduction between Kevin Tierney of Ardglasson Productions (80%) and Michael Deakin (Human Bomb, Good King Wenceslas) of the u.k.’s Gryphon Films. The film is the fifth collaboration between Tierney (Bonanno: A Godfather’s Story, More Tales of the City) and Showtime Networks, which has acquired u.s. pay-tv rights.

The exec producers are Barbra Streisand and Cis Corman of Barwood Films and Edward Wessex of the u.k.’s Ardent Productions. Hallmark Entertainment has world rights outside of Canada, the u.k. and u.s. pay. Canadian rights have been acquired by Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution.

Wessex, better known as Prince Edward, flew in to Montreal for a brief visit to the set. ‘He was very at ease and [it's] certainly not the first set he’s ever been on,’ says Tierney. ‘He was very engaging, chatty, knowledgeable, curious and interested, all of the right things.’

Tierney says the status of the executive producers adds to the film’s overall market equity and pedigree, and helped it ‘get through the system.’

Department heads on the stcvq shoot include line producer Daniele Rohrbach, dop Daniel Jobin (Lilies), designer Ray Dupuis, Denis Papillon, who is editing at Montage Metaphore, sound recordist Claude Hazanavicius and costumiere Nicoletta Massone.

If the post-production schedule permits, a screening of Varian’s War at the Toronto International Film Festival would be ideal, says Tierney.

*Grenon, Montpetit star in Mon meilleur ennemi

Radio-Canada has added a website feature (www.radio-canada.ca/television) for fans who wish to follow the day-to-day production of Mon meilleur ennemi, a major new teleroman produced in-house by src.

In this teleroman, from established screenwriters Louise Pelletier and Suzanne Aubry, Macha Grenon plays Genevieve, the story’s principal character. Genevieve is an ex-journalist who works with a human-rights commission. Idealistic but afraid of her own somewhat suppressed emotions, her entirely reasonable marriage is threatened when an old flame, her ‘best enemy,’ reappears in her life. The flip side of the triangle is Genevieve’s inseparable friendship with two thirtysomething characters, themselves products of divorced marriages – Franny (Pascale Montpetit), a live-for-the-day sort involved with a married man, and Michel (Stephane Breton), a sentimental cafe waiter in love with a much older woman.

Supporting cast includes Denis Bernard, Patrick Goyette, Francoise Faucher, Widemir Normil as Genevieve’s Senegalese boss, Annick Bergeron, Danielle Proulx and Andree Lachapelle as Genevieve’s sophisticated mom.

The story’s human-rights setting opens the door to topical social issues, like the case of a woman who loses her job because she smokes, or another character who’s embroiled in couple-swapping (‘club d’echangistes’).

Writers Pelletier and Aubry have worked togther on other teleromans, including A nous deux and Sauve qui peut.

Celine Hallee (Jamais deux sans toi, Virginie) is the show’s director/co-ordinator.

Exteriors will be shot throughout August and studio scenes go to camera the following month. Mon meilleur ennemi airs on Radio-Canada in January 2001.

*Hivon’s first feature

Described as ‘a Quebec take on a twentysomething romantic comedy,’ Chocolate, creme glacee et autres consolations stars Isabelle Brouillette, Danny Gilmore and Jacynthe Rene as three longtime friends confronted with change. The film is Julie Hivon’s first feature. The multitalented filmmaker (Baiser d’enfants, a dramatic short) earlier won an award for her novel Ce qu’il en reste.

Marcel Giroux of GPA Films is producing. Giroux produced Jean-Marc Vallee’s La Liste Noire, and coproduced with Shimon Dotan on Sylvain Guy’s $5-million English remake The List.

Hivon says Chocolate could be a Gen-X tale about friendship, but is really more a story of the end of an era. Supporting cast includes Dorothee Berryman, France Castel, Serge Theriault, Claude Pregent and seven-year-old Louis-Philippe Dury. Claudine Sauve is the dop, Christian Legare the art director, and Nathalie Lamoureaux is editing on a Lightworks at Main Film. Lab and post are being handled by Covitec.

Funding sources on the $1-million Chocolate include Telefilm Canada, sodec’s Jeunes Createurs program, the Canada Arts Council, Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec and Fonds Harold Greenberg.

The 25-day shoot wrapped June 21. The distrib is Aska Film Distribution.

Projects in development at gpa include The Red Album, scripted by Toronto director Allan Tong. It’s described as a contemporary drama, ‘a redemption story about a first-generation Asian family’ confronted with their deceased dad’s terrible gambling debts.

Also in the works is the $3.5-million thriller The Actress, the story of a stripper caught between a burglar/stalker and a murderous lawyer. It has interest from TMN-The Movie Network, Super Ecran, Citytv, Bravo! and Superchannel. Cowriters are Roger Boire and Cynthia Knight. Giroux says he hopes to shoot this fall with a u.k. or Canadian coproduction partner.

A third project, Motel Vacancy, marks top production designer Claude Pare’s (The Score, Battlefield Earth) directorial debut. It’s an offbeat comedy about an impoverished father and son who try a number of half-brained schemes with a little help from a mysterious woman.

The target start-up date on this $2-million feature project is mid-October, with Pare’s Luna Films coproducing.

*Kaufman wraps The Outer Limits

Montreal director Jimmy Kaufman is back in town checking out new projects following the wrap of this spring’s final two episodes (and two-hour, direct-to-video and tv movie) of The Outer Limits.

The Vancouver-based sci-fi anthology is partnered by Trilogy, mgm, Alliance Atlantis Communications and Showtime, and completed a six-year run (132 hours) this spring with a two-hour courtroom drama called ‘Final Appeal.’ Kaufman says the 70-page script was filmed over eight days.

‘I loved this show. Of all the television I’ve done, I’ve found it to be the smartest stuff. The scripts are morally and socially important,’ says the director.

The finale’s ‘tribute’ cast includes Charlton Heston, Hal Holbrook, Cicely Tison, Kelly McGillis, Amanda Plummer, Swoozie Kurtz, Robert Loggia, Michael Moriarty and Wallace Langham, a writer on the defunct The Larry Sanders Show.

Kaufman (Whiskers, Demons, Time at the Top) has been on the road much of the last four years directing episodics such as Emily of New Moon, The New Addams Family, Stargate SG-1, Caitlin’s Way, shot in Calgary, and Big Wolf on Campus. This time he’s talking features and tv series with Montreal producers, including Telescene Film Group (Matthew Blackheart, Live Through This), as well as with producers in Toronto and Vancouver.

The final episode of The Outer Limits airs on Global Television Network in Canada in September.

*Sjarov’s new start

After a 13-year stay as a film student and director/writer in Prague, Plamen Sjarov moved to Montreal last fall determined to launch a new career in the city where he screened his docudrama and award-winning short, The Mask (or The Other Face), some 10 years earlier.

In Prague, Sjarov directed seven dramatic shorts and documentaries shot on film and more than two dozen music videos. Here, he’s just completed an intensive six-month esl course in English.

The Mask won a prize at Festival des Grandes Ecoles in 1990, was an official selection entry at fifa, and was also selected to represent the Czech Republic at the 17th student film festival organized as part of the Academy Awards. Sjarov’s biggest honor came when The Mask attracted the attention of renowned documentarian Jean Rouche, who introduced the film and filmmaker at the closing-night ceremonies at Neuvieme Bilan held at the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris.

Local producer Malcolm Guy is encouraging Sjarov to apply for development funds at sodec.

The director says he hopes to develop some of his own material, including a ‘hyper-reality’ feature project called xx-ps, a dramatic anthology series set in the art world, and a children’s tv series, The Magic Book, a mix of live action and 3D character animation.

The director’s 16mm film work includes Bardos, a mix of music set against the Bulgarian revolution; Prague Spring, a look at that city’s international music festival; and A Smile, a social-issues doc.

His last shoot in Prague, completed in ’99, was Prophesy Written in the Wind, a 15-minute tv doc produced for Mega Entertainment of New York.

Clients in the pop music video field have included Sony Music, emi and BMG – Ariola.

*Upcoming movie action

Les Productions 23 and producer Lorraine Dufour begin filming on the new Catherine Martin feature, Comme pour un marriage, July 10. Jean-Claude Labrecque is the shoot’s dop and Andre-Line Beauparlant is the art director.

Palomar producer Barbara Shrier (The Red Violin, The Moderns) and director Francis Leclerc start production on Une jeune fille a la fenetre at the end of August. The story will be partly filmed in Quebec City and is cowritten by the director and Marcel Beaulieu. It’s set in the 1920s and tells the story of an idealistic, young country woman, played by Fanny Mallette, whose love of music takes her to the big city. Monique Dion (No, Les Septs Branches) is the art director, Steve Asselin is the dop, and Pierre Duchesne has signed to compose the original music. The distrib is Alliance Atlantis Vivafilm.

New feature production on the horizon signed with the stcvq and Quebec District Council of the Directors Guild of Canada includes Champs, a Trackform Film Productions shoot from director Renny Harlin (Trax, Die Hard 2, Nightmare on Elm Street 4). Produced by Don Carmody and starring Sylvester Stallone, it’ll prep in Toronto later this summer and shoots here from Sept. 15 to Oct. 6.

David Mamet is directing The Heist, a Stolen Film Productions feature from producers Eli Samaha, Art Linson and Carmody. It preps here to Aug. 4, with principal photography set for Aug. 7 to Oct. 6.

Josette Perotta and Scott Ferguson are the coproducers. Francois Sylvestre is pm, David Wasco (a member of iatse in the u.s.) is the production designer and Isabelle Guay is art director.