Essential to roll out 7-film slate

Natalie Portman, Bruce Willis among stars of the features

Features from Natalie Portman, Barry Sonnenfeld and Randall Wallace highlight the seven-film debut slate from Essential Pictures.

The new production outfit is a sister to sales/financing company Essential Entertainment. Although funded by separate pools of equity, the two share mutual investors and employees: EE co-founder Jim Kohlberg is EP's chairman/CEO, and exec Neil Kaplan is president/COO.

EP is aiming to develop, package, finance and produce two to three films a year in the $10 million-$40 million range, then sell them via EE, which Kohlberg continues to run with co-founder Jere Haufstater. The slate includes:

-- The Natalie Portman starrer "Isabella V," an adaptation of John Richardson's 2003 blog-formatted Esquire article about an heiress on the run from her family. Dan Gordon ("The Hurricane") wrote the thriller script, to be produced in conjunction with Brightlight Pictures and Handsome Charlie Films.

-- "Outlander," based on Diana Gabaldon's 1992 best-seller about a woman's dual lives in World War II Britain and 18th century Scotland. Randall Wallace ("Braveheart") will adapt the novel.

-- Barry Sonnenfeld is attached to direct the romantic comedy "Bronwyn and Clyde," about the crime-solving adventures of a wealthy woman and her P.I. husband. Tom Vaughan and Kristy Dobkin wrote the script. Jim Kohlberg and Neil Kaplan will produce with Chris Uettiwiller and Dolly Hall.

-- A.M. Holmes will adapt her 2006 satirical novel about a soul-searching day trader, "This Book Will Save Your Life," for Essential and Stone Village Pictures.

-- Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne and Andy Garcia attached to star in Todd Robinson's political thriller "The Last Full Measure" (produced with Trilogy Entertainment Group).

Other projects include writer Ali Calamari's tabloid world romantic comedy "A Match Made in Magazines" and writer Darin Mark's remake of the 1996 Italian comedy "Il Ciclone" (produced with Gianni Nunnari and the Hollywood Gang).
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