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Company Town : Clear and Present Proposal to Expand a Partnership : Film: Producers Mace Neufeld and Robert Rehme want to bring outside financing to their projects for Paramount.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As the title of their latest hit film indicates, producers Mace Neufeld and Robert Rehme are familiar with the clear and present dangers involved in making techno-action movies.

There was the rebellion in southern Mexico that nearly cost them the right to film special-effects explosives scenes in that country, which they used as a double for Colombia. Then there was the scene that called for blowing up a drug lord’s home--a problem finally solved when they found a couple going through a bitter divorce who were eager to off their house.

Still, nothing topped January’s Northridge earthquake, in which five reels of close-ups that would have been used in the film’s final scene were ruined.

Despite those hurdles, the duo’s “Clear and Present Danger,” starring Harrison Ford, turned into one of the summer’s biggest hits. It crossed the benchmark $100-million point Thursday in domestic box office receipts and is likely to be the biggest of the three films to date based on the adventures of novelist Tom Clancy’s CIA agent Jack Ryan.

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It is also one of two main reasons--the other being “Forrest Gump"--that Paramount Pictures is enjoying its biggest summer in years, with a domestic box office total of about $413 million, just a shade behind front-runner Walt Disney Co.

“Mace and Bob have delivered to this company one of its most important franchises ever. These movies aren’t easy to put together. They’ve not only managed to keep it going, but elevate it,” Paramount production chief John Goldwyn said.

With “Clear and Present Danger” and other hit films such as “Patriot Games” as calling cards, Neufeld and Rehme hope to expand their five-year partnership even further by bringing outside financing to their projects at Paramount.

Private financing deals are gaining in popularity with big-name producers because they reap bigger profits from hit films. Producers can also make more movies, as well as riskier films that a studio might be reluctant to fund with its own money. Neufeld and Rehme haven’t identified a source of financing but say they hope to make as many as five films a year under such an arrangement, up from the two a year they can handle now.

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Paramount’s openness to such a deal is a sea change in itself. In years past, parent Paramount Communications Inc. was always so flush with cash there was no need or desire to forgo any rights to its films.

But with its acquisition by Viacom Inc. this year, Paramount is now eager to do such deals under Viacom Entertainment Group Vice Chairman Jonathan Dolgen. It recently signed a similar agreement with Douglas/Reuther Productions.

Neufeld, 66, and Rehme, 59, both defy the stereotype of hotshot Hollywood producers. Both are grandfathers who spend little time on the Hollywood social circuit. They also remain active in TV, despite their success in the higher-profile and more prestigious film business. Neufeld and Rehme were executive producers on the critically acclaimed “Gettysburg"--which had a brief theatrical release last year--and are developing another miniseries for Turner Films on Los Angeles gang violence.

Rehme is a longtime studio executive who started as a movie usher in his hometown of Cincinnati. He eventually held posts at Universal, Avco Embassy and was one of the partners at New World.

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Neufeld has the more eclectic background. His work has ranged from producing the hit TV series “Cagney & Lacey” to helping develop the careers of such stars as Neil Diamond and Don Adams to writing the theme song for the “Heckle and Jeckle” cartoon show.

The two had been friends for years when they united as producers shortly after Rehme and his partners sold New World to billionaire Ronald Perelman in 1989. Neufeld was already producing “The Hunt for Red October” for Paramount, the first of Clancy’s books featuring Jack Ryan to be made into a film.

After having been pitched projects, being on the other side of the desk was a new experience for Rehme.

“One of the frustrations you experience as a producer is developing what you consider to be very good material and having it rejected,” Rehme says. “Having been on the other side of the desk, I never did quite appreciate the impact. I must have said no 5,000 times.”

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Rehme still watches the openings of their films with the same nervousness he did as a studio executive. He’s also been known to irritate theater managers by suggesting they adjust the sound or the focus of his pictures.

Neufeld is considered the more hands-on production executive, overseeing even the smallest details on films. He is also the one called on to act as diplomat in settling problems, such as easing concerns of the Mexican government when seeking permission to film.

One of the more difficult problems has been with Clancy himself. The author openly complained in the past that Ford is too old to play Ryan. Neufeld and Rehme say they feel vindicated both by the glowing reviews and the box office numbers for “Clear and Present Danger.”

Producers’ Success Stories

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Some of the films produced by Mace Neufeld and Robert Rehme individually or as a team. Except where noted, the films were Paramount Pictures releases.

Domestic Date box office released (millions) The Hunt for Red October 3/90 $120.7 Flight of the Intruder 1/91 $14.5 Necessary Roughness 9/91 $26.2 Patriot Games 6/92 $83.3 Beverly Hills Cop 3 5/94 $42.0 Clear and Present Danger 8/94 $100+ Gettysburg* 10/93 $10.6

* Executive producers for the film, which was both a New Line Cinema theatrical release and a Turner Network Television cable miniseries.

Source: Paramount Pictures, New Line Cinema

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