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Keanu Reeves populates 'Passengers'

Big-budget Adam and Eve pic highlights Morgan Creek focus

CANNES -- A newly reinvigorated Morgan Creek has licensed its latest project, "Passengers," to be directed by Italian auteur Gabriele Muccino, to Medusa in Italy and to Herbert Kloiber's TeleMunchen in Germany. Other deals in key territories are pending on the $90 million pic, which will go out domestically through Universal.

Keanu Reeves already has been locked up as the male lead, while his female love interest is still being sought for what the producers short-handed as "Adam & Eve in Space." The pic also will have a couple of comedic roles and set designs created by some of the wizards who worked on "Avatar."

At a brunch for press and international buyers Sunday at the Moulin des Mougins, Morgan Creek founder James Robinson put the accent on his company's new focus on bigger-budget projects that have global appeal; his son Brian, who is senior vp worldwide marketing, also emphasized the importance of responding to the needs of international buyers from the get-go.

 

"We are like a small studio and there are few people doing films in this sort of budget range outside of the Hollywood studios," the elder Robinson said.

Aside from the well-known economic glitches in Greece, Portugal and Spain, the younger Robinson told THR that "a lot of business is going on" and that all the key buyers were on hand with their wallets.

"In addition to the deals we have already closed, we expect more significant announcements within the next few days," the company's intl sales prexy Danny Diamond said.

Set in the future, "Passengers" centers on Jim Preston (Reeves), a mechanic on a 120-year journey to a distant colonized planet in another galaxy, who becomes the first traveler to experience pod hibernation failure. Having woken up 100 years too soon, he is stranded in the world of an interstellar spaceship with only robots and androids for companionship.

A year into his journey, he decides to wake up a fellow passenger, a beautiful journalist named Aurora. They fall in love but must soon deal not only with the revelation of Jim's misjudged act of waking her but a major malfunction of the ship itself

Original script was penned by screenplay by Jon Spaihts but is now getting a polish and will begin shooting next January, though exactly where is still unclear. (The worsening exchange rate with Canada may scupper the idea of that territory.)

Jim Robinson said the film is essentially a love story but with sophisticated robotics, a crusty older character a la Tommy Lee Jones and a comic humanoid servant a la Eddie Izzard. (Those roles too have yet to be cast.)

"I think of the picture as having the after-taste of 'Titanic' -- but everyone lives," he said.

In addition to "Passengers," (and there are apparently 5,000 of them "asleep" in pods at the beginning of the movie), Morgan Creek is in post with Jim Sheridan's "Dreamhouse," toplining Daniel Craig, and is developing a bio pic about Tupac, which has not yet been cast, but in which a number of the rapper's friends from the music world have called to say they want to play themselves in it.

The elder Robinson said the company also is looking to boost its slate with an adult comedy, in the vein of the Farrelly Bros.' "Hall Pass," which they were interested in but which eventually went to New Line/Warner Bros.