Mending Fences : New Paramount Boss Brandon Tartikoff Woos Eddie Murphy, Simpson & Bruckheimer for ‘Cop 3’


Paramount Pictures’ new chairman, Brandon Tartikoff, is mending the studio’s ties with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Eddie Murphy, and two of its biggest producers, Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, all of whom are in preliminary discussions with Paramount to do “Beverly Hills Cop 3,” Tartikoff disclosed in one of his first interviews since taking over July 1.

Under Tartikoff’s short reign, the studio also has begun relying heavily on TV talent, reflecting the new chairman’s 14-year tenure at NBC. “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels is producing “Wayne’s World,” the film version of the popular SNL skit that stars the show’s regulars, Dana Carvey and Mike Myers, as well as Rob Lowe.

The studio is developing a romantic comedy script written by Glen and Les Charles, two of the three creators of NBC’s popular “Cheers.” The creative team behind “The Golden Girls”--Susan Harris, Tony Thomas and Paul Witt--will produce a comedy about three divorced fathers and their kids next year. And Christopher Crowe, a TV director who worked for Tartikoff, will direct a murder mystery starring Annabella Sciorra.


“I’m not a one-trick pony,” Tartikoff said of his decision to tap TV talent for feature films. “This isn’t the only idea I’ve come to the party with. But I do think there are a lot of people with great crossover possibilities. There is a blurred line now between TV and film.”

In addition, Tartikoff intends to turn one TV-inspired project that was already going forward at Paramount--”The Addams Family”--into a series. “It could be a great industry for us,” Tartikoff said. “I don’t think the picture exhausts the interest in the characters. I’ve already talked to (producer) Scott Rudin regarding a sequel.” The first “Addams Family,” starring Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston, opens Nov. 22.

Tartikoff also had some bad news to disclose: Layoffs, he confirmed, are in the offing at the studio. Though he declined to give any numbers, he did say that department heads are being asked to justify each of their staff positions. It is believed that as much as 10% of the staff will be let go.

Tartikoff, who earned a reputation as a successful innovator as chairman of NBC’s Entertainment Group, took over a studio in turmoil. Long the ranking box-office king, Paramount had dropped to sixth place. Paramount President Sidney Ganis had left. And studio chief Frank G. Mancuso resigned after Stanley Jaffe was installed above him, and then angrily filed a $40-million lawsuit.

Tartikoff clearly sees part of his mandate as mending broken fences. Murphy was strongly considering leaving Paramount, where he had launched his film career, and had been wined and dined by studios all over town. Jaffe gave Murphy the legal right to make his next movie at another studio--which turned out to be Disney. Meanwhile, Tartikoff greenlighted “Boomerang,” the last film Murphy owes under his current Paramount deal--and a film that the new chairman insists will enable Murphy to broaden his acting career. “Boomerang,” which starts filming in November under the direction of the Hudlin Brothers (“House Party”), is about a man who changes his life in pursuit of the “perfect woman” when his ideal soul-mate is right under his nose. “Hopefully, people will look back on ‘Boomerang’ and say this is where Eddie Murphy grew up into a true adult leading man,” Tartikoff said.

Tartikoff also said he is in the latter stages of negotiations with Murphy to renew his contract at Paramount. “Eddie’s going to be here a while,” Tartikoff said. “What was necessary for Eddie was not just to do the kinds of movies he had done as a 25- and 26-year-old, but to find material that would help him grow as a performer.”

Tartikoff also praised producers Simpson and Bruckheimer, who moved to the Disney lot last year after falling out of favor with Paramount management after “Days of Thunder.” One of the reasons behind their departure, sources said, was Mancuso’s refusal to go ahead with a “Beverly Hills Cop” sequel. But a script by Robert Towne is now in the discussion stage, and Tartikoff said he wants to go forward. “I’d rather have (Simpson and Bruckheimer) on it than anyone else in town,” he said.

The new chairman made clear that sequels will remain a part of the Paramount slate. “If out of 20 pictures, we have three or four or five that are familiar to audiences, that takes a lot of stress off the marketing and distribution people,” he said.

In addition to the “Addams Family,” he has given the go-ahead to “Patriot Games,” which continues the key character played by Alec Baldwin from “The Hunt for Red October,” both based on Tom Clancy’s best-selling novels. Tartikoff’s choice for director of “Patriot Games,” Philip Noyce, had directed an NBC pilot for Tartikoff, as well as such films as “Dead Calm.”

Tartikoff placed himself in the middle of the debates now raging over big-budget movies. On “Patriot Games,” he added about $7 million to a $25-million budget in order to get a better cast and special effects. But he cut the budget on “All I Want for Christmas” to $12 million. Overall, he said he expects Paramount’s slate to cost slightly under the industry average of about $27 million.

One of Tartikoff’s most pressing duties is replacing Mel Harris, the respected president of the Paramount Pictures television group. Harris announced on Sunday that he is leaving his post Oct. 1. Harris had been seen as a possible successor to former Paramount chief Mancuso before Tartikoff got the job earlier this year.

Tartikoff hopes to replace Harris by mid-September, but declined to name those being considered for the job. Tartikoff said he asked Harris to stay, but that Harris, whom he called “a very buttoned-up guy,” was uncomfortable with his hands-on management style.

“Basically, I’m a quarterback that scrambles out of the pocket,” Tartikoff said. “And I told him, ‘This is who they (Paramount’s corporate management) bought.’ But he felt much more comfortable with the way things had been than the way they were going to be.”

Tartikoff said the future of another top executive, movie production chief David Kirkpatrick, is secure at Paramount. But there remains widespread speculation in the industry that Tartikoff will install his own production chief.