Out of the 'Fire': Kaye back with a pair of hot projects

4:00 AM PST 11/04/2006 by Gregg Goldstein, AP

Docu, McKee thriller making rounds

Tony Kaye is back. The notoriously mercurial "American History X" director has re-emerged in the feature film world, shopping his acclaimed abortion docu "Lake of Fire," which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, and a new thriller from script guru Robert McKee, "Madness."

That word has been associated with Kaye in the years after he fought New Line Cinema and Edward Norton tooth and nail over final cut on "X" eight years ago. "I was in the clouds back then," Kaye admits. He's since patched things up with the studio, prepping a 10-year anniversary director's-cut DVD of the film and even discussing new projects with them. But it's "Madness" (which Kaye will produce with McKee and former UTA agent Josh Klein, via his new outfit the Group Films) that's on his mind.

The film, which is set to be McKee's first produced theatrical feature, centers on a doctor who has cured and married one of his former patients. The pair run an insane asylum, but things turn deadly when the husband begins testing his cure for schizophrenia on the inmates.

"McKee is as mad as me," laughs the director. "He gave this to me 10 years ago and he doesn't give his scripts to anyone."

It's one of several projects Kaye says he has in the pipeline. There's also "Murderer's Row," a courtroom drama about capital punishment, and an untitled Carl Lund script about corporations financing a gambling operation based on no-holds-barred fights in prison.

Kaye has remained a superstar in the world of commercials. He's now off in China filming "mini-documentaries" on health care providers for Johnson & Johnson and will soon begin shooting a series of CG-animated spots for the United Arab Emirates on a new city that will fuse ancient Arabic iconography with futuristic architecture.

Kaye's music video work also is taking off. His Red Hot Chili Peppers video "Dani California" scored at this year's MTV Video Music Awards, and his new Johnny Cash video, "God's Gonna Cut You Down,"features cameos from everyone from Justin Timberlake to Owen Wilson.

But whether old demons will resurface remains a big question mark for the director and a potential headache for any distributor who chooses to buy "Fire," which is being repped by Anonymous Content. Kaye spent some 16 years (and, he claims, $6 million-$8 million) on his graphic and thought-provoking two-and-a-half-hour examination of the abortion controversy, giving equal weight to both sides of the debate.

Just before its Toronto premiere, Kaye said he would continue changing the film, but after an enthusiastic response at the fest, he said he won't put any distributor in the same situation as New Line. "The film is what it is, and in a way it works," he said. "I could spend another year and a few million more dollars, and it wouldn't change what it is."

Most importantly, Kaye said, he just wants to get back in the game. "I'm 54 and I'm getting old now. I've got to have some presence in the filmmaking world," he said. "Gone are the days when I wanted to be a lunatic. I want to be seen as a responsible craftsman."
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