Martin Moszkowicz's Constantin Film Headed to the Big Time (Berlin)

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Martin Moszkowicz, head of film and television at German mini-major Constantin Film, has the laugh, and the figure, of someone who enjoys life. His disheveled office in downtown Munich — DVD stacks threatening to topple, a shelf of reference books, posters of key art leaning precariously — speaks of the voracious and variegated appetite of a producer whose projects range from the zombie mutants of Resident Evil: Afterlife to the swashbuckling of The Three Musketeers to the small-set drama of Roman Polanski’s God of Carnage.

Moszkowicz was born to make movies. His Jewish father, Imo Moszkowicz, survived Auschwitz and went on to become an acclaimed director in postwar Germany. His sister, Daniela Dadieu, is an actress based in Vienna. His wife is famed German director Doris Dorrie. As a producer, at his own M P Film shingle in the 1980s and at Constantin since 1991, Moszkowicz has worked on about 80 features.

Constantin’s stable of directors and producers are a who’s who of the German film scene: from the late Bernd Eichinger (Downfall, Perfume — The Story of a Murderer) to comedy king Michael “Bully” Herbig. Men known for their obsessive control of all aspects of a production.

“I don’t have a problem working with perfectionists and control freaks,” Moszkowicz says with a grin. “I’d much prefer a control freak who has a clear vision. In the end, films aren’t made by corporations but by producers and creatives. We can organize and coordinate, but the creatives need their protected biotope to function. It’s best to leave them alone, let them do it.”

Both Moszkowicz and Constantin have been a big deal in Germany for a while now. Pretty much every German box-office hit of the past two decades and most of the films that rep Germany at the Oscars — think Downfall or The Baader Meinhof Complex — originated here. But even by their standards, 2011, he says, “will be huge.”

With Three Musketeers and Gods of Carnage, Constantin has two of most hotly anticipated English-language projects of the year.

For Musketeers, Constantin took on — and beat — Warner Bros. The studio was planning its own take on the Alexandre Dumas classic with Mr. and Mrs. Smith helmer Doug Liman to direct. Moszkowicz knew if Warner greenlighted the film, it could kill their in-house version with Resident Evil director Paul W.S. Anderson.

“Having two projects, probably with the same title, going head-to-head wouldn’t have been pretty,” he says. “And we can’t compare ourselves with Warners. We’re a midsized German production company — they are a giant. Their monthly turnover is several times our yearly earnings.”

But Moszkowicz fast-tracked Musketeers, hoping to get Anderson’s film out of the gate before Warners got around to shooting. Constantin had a script, which it took to Cannes to shop the project to international distributors.

“Everything came together,” Moszkowicz says. “We were planning to finance it without a U.S. distributor when Summit Entertainment came on board, and it all clicked. We had it in Cannes in May, and by August we could start shooting.”

Moszkowicz calls the 3D tentpole, which stars Milla Jovovich, Orlando Bloom, Mads Mikkelson, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Logan Lerman and Christoph Waltz, a “game-changer” for Constantin.

“In Europe, people know we can make big productions, but in L.A., this really got people’s attention,” he says. “Suddenly we are being offered projects we’d never gotten before.”

Projects like The Mortal Instruments, the first feature in a potential teen fantasy franchise based on Cassandra Clare’s best-selling novels, which Constantin is producing with Screen Gems and Unique Features. Or Where Rainbows End, the rom-com from Irish writer Cecelia Ahern (P.S., I Love You) which producer Simon Brooks brought to Constantin. Moszkowicz is also planning an animated remake of Tarzan, having snatched up the rights to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic when they became available last year.

Then there’s Polanski.

“We’d been discussing [God of Carnage] for a while,” Moszkowicz says. “I’ve know Roman for many years and know (Carnage playwright) Yasmina Reza well. She and my wife were on the jury in Cannes in 1999.”

Constantin, with French producer SBS, was ready to start prepping Carnage late in 2009, when Polanski was arrested on the sex charge dating back to the 1970s.

“I can’t discuss the legal issues. That’s not for me to comment on,” Moszkowicz says. “But, of course, we were worried. After it happened, there was a real question of whether the film could get made and where we’d make it.”

In the end, Polanski was released but worried about extradition if he left France, and the Carnage production shifted from a planned shoot at Studio Babelsberg to Paris.

“It might not seem like a typical Constantin Film — small budget, European co-production,” Moszkowicz says. “But if you look at the talent involved (Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Waltz and John C. Reilly) with Roman Polanski directing, then it starts to look more like a Constantin film.”

Moszkowicz doesn’t like the term “European studio” to describe Constantin, but the “midsized production company” from Munich is beginning to look like one.

Constantin made its name in Los Angeles with the B-movie franchises Resident Evil and Wrong Turn, but this year’s slate could mean the firm’s entry into the major leagues. Musketeers and The Mortal Transfer are being set up as A-list franchises. If that strategy plays out, Constantin would join Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp and London-based Working Title in the elite group of production companies capable of hoisting tentpoles on both sides of the Atlantic.

“We’ve done big English-language projects before, but always someone else was or was seen to be in the drivers seat,” Moszkowicz says. “But with Three Musketeers, we are in the driver’s seat. It’s a quantum leap forward.”

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