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'Beast' rears head at AFM

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Producers Jonathan Sanger, Ed Elbert and Sarah Ryan Black launched indie film production and funding outfit Grand Illusions Entertainment with financing partner David Steiner and introduced one of their first features, "Beast of Bataan," for presales at AFM.

The World War II drama starring Charlie Hunnam was originally set to be directed by Paul Verhoeven, who was replaced by Fred Schepisi in an amicable parting when Verhoeven's duties on "Black Book" caused a scheduling conflict. "Bataan" is slated to begin filming in Queensland, Australia in the spring, and the project has been presold to Greece, Portugal, Russia and the Middle East by Film Bridge International.

The company plans to back two to three features a year in the $5 million-$30 million budget range as well as co-finance several television projects. Its upcoming slate includes Simon Brand's Spanish-language drama "Paraiso Travel," starring John Leguizamo; Eric Red's supernatural thriller "100 Feet"; a remake of "East of Eden," with development and production funding and distribution by Universal Pictures; and an adaptation of the soon-to-be-published Mob novel trilogy "Dark Legacy."

Grand Illusions headquarters will be on the Raleigh Studios lot in Hollywood and in Brooklyn at David Steiner's Steiner Studios.