Schweiger's 'Way' leads

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COLOGNE, Germany -- German star Til Schweiger is planning four new English-language film projects with Swiss commercials helmer Reto Salimbeni following their collaboration on action thriller "One Way," which has its world premiere Saturday in Los Angeles.

"One Way" is the first English-language film Schweiger has produced through his German-based shingle Barefoot Films. It follows the success of his German-language "Barefoot." He said in an interview he plans to team with Salimbeni on his next four English-language projects, which he will both star in and produce.

Schweiger said in an interview that he will both produce and star in the next four English-languge projects with Salimbeni. These include high-concept comedy "Superlover," action film "KSK" and edgy romantic comedy "Slide Show."

Co-starring Michael Clarke Duncan, Eric Roberts and Lauren Lee Smith, "One Way" will make its debut Saturday at the Arclight Theater as part of the Hollywood Film Festival.

"I call it a perfect landing," Schweiger said in an interview. "I lived and worked in L.A. for seven years, so coming back to premiere this film in Hollywood is amazing."

In "One Way," Schweiger plays a hot shot advertising executive whose life is thrown into turmoil after he provides a false alibi to a friend accused of rape.

Schweiger returned to Germany in 2004. His first production, "Barefoot," was a German-language adaptation of one of the scripts he had picked up in Hollywood. Directed, produced and co-written by Schweiger, "Barefoot" was a huge local success, taking in close to $12 million for German distributor Buena Vista International.

"I will continue to do German-language movies -- like the comedy 'Video Kings,' which we are releasing next year and could only work in German," Schweiger said. "But 'One Way' showed us we can do English-language productions out of Germany. And we don't intend to stop now."

Just two years ago, Schweiger's own career seemed headed for a cul-de-sac. After striking German-language hits with "Maybe, Maybe Not" (1994) and "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" (1997), Schweiger moved to Hollywood. What followed was a string of bit parts in films including "The Replacement Killers" (1998) "Driven" (2001) and "King Arthur" (2004), with Schweiger usually cast as the two-dimensional heavy.

At the same time, Schweiger was trying his hand at producing, acquiring rights and developing projects through his Mr. Brown Entertainment label for German group Senator Entertainment.

"I was trying to finance and produce everything out of the United States but then I realized the biggest asset I have is myself as an actor," Schweiger recalled. "In Germany, I'm a name and I can get financing based on that. In the U.S., I'm just another actor waiting on the phone for my agent to call."

"I took 'Barefoot' around the world to festivals and the response was always the same and always amazing," Schweiger said. "But when it came to selling the film to distributors, the fact that it was in German was always a barrier."

A barrier Schweiger and Salimbeni hope to overcome with "One Way." Like "Barefoot," Schweiger originally picked up the script in Los Angeles with an eye to producing it stateside. But with Schweiger in the lead, Salimbeni says, getting the entire $10 million budget out of Germany proved remarkably easy.

"We started developing the project in 1998 and in December 2004 we took it to Germany to try and set up the financing there, independent of the U.S.," Salimbeni said. "Within a year, we had the budget in place and we started shooting. I think producing the film like we did gave us more creative control and allowed us to give 'One Way' an edgier feel."

Following its Hollywood debut, "One Way" will open wide in Germany on Jan. 25 via distributor UIP. The film also has pre-sold to Gemini Film for Eastern Europe and Russia, where Schweiger is a major star.
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