The Import Business

Will box-office lightning--the French kind--strike twice for Touchstone? Riding the success of the $100-million-grossing "Three Men and a Baby," based on the French hit "Three Men and a Cradle," Touchstone is readying "The Fugitives" to star Nick Nolte and Martin Short. It's a farce about a reformed bank robber taken hostage by a desperate man during an armed robbery, based on "Les Fugitifs," which starred Gerard Depardieu and Pierre Richard.

The American "Fugitives" goes before the cameras in late March here and in Seattle. Francis Veber, who wrote both French blockbusters, will direct. But it could mean we won't be seeing the French version for a long, long time.

Touchstone acquired all rights--including North American distribution--to "Les Fugitifs" in early 1987 and has no release scheduled. Anne Templeton, v.p. acquisitions at the Goldwyn Co., which distributed "Cradle" in the U.S., said she has tried unsuccessfully to acquire rights to "Les Fugitifs" "because of stories (Disney was) just letting it collect dust."

"I'm convinced it won't be released," Veber told us. "The time between the two versions is just too close and I'm sure Disney feels putting the first into cinemas will create a confusion rather than enhance the new film."

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