'Party' time for Garibaldi's film banner

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Marco Garibaldi, the colorful entrepreneur and Hollywood writer-producer, is getting back in the entertainment game after a decadelong absence, forming a new production company that will produce a remake of the Peter Sellers cult hit "The Party."

Garibaldi, perhaps best known in celebrity circles for a longtime romantic involvement with Priscilla Presley, is a Brazilian screenwriter and producer who has dabbled in a number of areas, helping turn Graceland merchandising into big business and even directing several episodes of the "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" television show.

His new banner, Godfather Entertainment, will aim to make movies in the $20 million range in a manner he says will be more efficient than the one practiced by the studios, and will attract talent by coming up with creative back-end deals. "The studios are in business to spend money," he said. "I want to make movies for less and put every dime of it on the screen."

The hyphenate said he also is in the process of securing a debt facility with an unnamed bank.

Among its projects, Godfather will team with Avi Lerner's Nu Image Films for "Last Chance Motel," a psychological thriller that Garibaldi will write and direct with shooting planned for 2009. Godfather also is developing a mob movie titled "The Vault," written by Alex Merkin and Jesse Mittelstadt.

But Garibaldi's flagship project will be a remake of "Party," the Blake Edwards-directed film that has had a devoted following since its 1968 release by United Artists.

This version, however, will bear only small resemblance to the original.

The original film centered on Sellers' Hrundi V. Bakshi, a bumbling Indian extra accidentally invited to a glamorous Hollywood party, with Sellers hamming it up in a series of loosely connected vignettes.

In the new version, only part of the conceit is the same: a hapless blond Midwesterner will have his appearance changed to resemble an Indian by a zealous studio eager he fit a part. Garibaldi says that he sees the movie as ripe for a number of star cameos, all of whom will attend the titular party.

Garibaldi and "Sex and the City" writer-producer Darren Star had originally set up the project at MGM in 2003. After a series of corporate moves, it ended up at DreamWorks, which kept the project in development for several years. The rights reverted to Garibaldi two months ago, and he enlisted screenwriters Brandon Gibson and Jim Russo to help him write the new script.

Garibaldi says he can make the movie for a fraction of the budget it might have cost at DreamWorks, possibly for about $20 million.

Godfather also is the production company behind "Across the Hall," the Brittany Murphy romantic thriller directed by Merkin from a script he wrote with Mittelstadt and produced with NBA star Elton Brand's production banner. The film is close to finding domestic distribution and is likely to be released in 2009.

Garibaldi said he has high hopes for a company even in a tough market for independent and slate film financing.

"Everybody and their mother is now raising half a billion dollars," he said. "I want to go trench by trench. We're going to start with enough money to make a $20 million movie and then make another one and another one, and go from there."
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