TriStar Pictures is insisting that Jersey Films co-chairmen Danny DeVito and Michael Shamberg shouldn't be paranoid or take it personally that the studio isn't going to make yet another of their planned movies, writer-director Quentin Tarantino's new dark comedy "Pulp Fiction."
Earlier this year, the studio pulled the plug on the company's comedy "Reality Bites," which DeVito and Shamberg are now shooting thanks to a new distribution deal with Universal Pictures.
And now, Jersey is negotiating with various financiers/distributors, including Miramax Films, to try and cut a deal on "Pulp Fiction"--Tarantino's first original script since his brash directorial debut with "Reservoir Dogs," the darling of last year's Sundance Film Festival.
Like "Reservoir Dogs," a violent film noir about the consequences of a bungled robbery by a group of hoodlums, "Pulp Fiction"--a series of interwoven stories set in Los Angeles--is a far cry from high concept and middle-of-the-road.
TriStar apparently got cold feet and decided not to go forward with production this fall because they feared it could be hard to market.
The studio's nose-thumbing at both "Pulp Fiction," an under-$10 million movie, and "Reality Bites," another low-cost production, don't appear to be unrelated events. A source at the studio explained that TriStar is currently looking to make and release more higher profile, bigger-budgeted mainstream movies with stars and at this point has little interest in more offbeat fare, even if the financial risks are lower.
Shamberg insists that he and DeVito--who are the executive producers on "Pulp Fiction"--harbor no ill feelings toward TriStar, where their Jersey Films is based, and they are confident the two companies will continue to do business.
"We have a great relationship with (TriStar chairman) Mike Medavoy and Tristar and we have several upcoming films we're going to make there," said Shamberg, declining to identify any projects at such an early stage.
"Pulp Fiction" producer Lawrence Bender, who also produced "Reservoir Dogs," says he is "confident that we're going to start shooting in September" and that a new deal with another company is close at hand. He also noted that neither he nor Tarantino, "who always wanted to work with Mike Medavoy," hold any grudges toward the TriStar folks.
In fact, he believes the studio's decision to pass on the picture will ultimately turn out to be a blessing in disguise--especially for a filmmaker like Tarantino, who cherishes creative freedom.
"We (he and Tarantino) are not upset because in the end I think we'll make the movie more in the way we see it, which has to do with the cast, the length and the tone. Basically in the same way 'Reservoir Dogs' is exactly what Quentin's vision was from beginning to end, we'll be able to do the same thing with 'Pulp Fiction,' " says Bender.
The producer contends that "Pulp Fiction" is a dark comedy with "a much wider audience appeal than 'Reservoir Dogs.' " While he agrees "it may be offbeat," Bender stressed, "that doesn't mean it's not commercial." He also assured that "Pulp" was "not going to be as violent" as "Reservoir Dogs," rather "it was going to be funnier and more mainstream."
Jersey's other former TriStar project, "Reality Bites," which the producers said Universal is targeting for release in the first quarter of next year, is far lighter material than both "Pulp" and "Dogs." Marking the directorial debut of Ben Stiller, the movie is a comedy aimed at teens and twentysomethings about how hard it is to find good jobs and romance when you get out of college.