MMC dials up 'Number'

Hitchcock thriller heads for Germany

Indie producer Gail Mutrux will be taking her next film to Germany, joining up with Cologne-based studio MMC to finance the murder mystery "Number 13" starring Dan Fogler, Ewan McGregor and Ben Kingsley.

Mutrux and MMC managing director Ralf Schmitz signed a letter of intent for the co-production in Los Angeles on Thursday. "Number 13," to be directed by newcomer Chase Palmer from his own script, is set to begin shooting in Cologne later this year.

The drama focuses on director Alfred Hitchcock's first film, the 1922 thriller "Number 13," which was never finished and has been the source of much speculation by Hitchcock fans and film historians.

In Palmer's script, Hitchcock (Fogler) gets caught up in a very Hitchcockian situation while making the film. His lead actor is killed and his editor suspects him of being the murderer. The portly English director is then forced to try and solve the mystery himself.

"Number 13" will be the first international co-production for MMC. The studios are Europe's largest but, until now, MMC had focused almost entirely on television production.

That is changing. Stephen Daldry plans to shoot the bulk of his Bernhard Schlink adaptation "The Reader," starring Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes, at MMC this spring.

But that project is a straight for-hire job. Studio Babelsberg is the German co-producer on the project.

With "Number 13," MMC will come on board as a co-producer, a move that gives the project access to generous German film subsidies. It is a financing structure Babelsberg has used successfully with recent productions including Bryan Singer's "Valkyrie" and Tom Tykwer's "The International."

"We are looking to do a similar thing to Studio Babelsberg, become co-producers on international projects," Schmitz said.

That's good news for indie producers. MMC Cologne location gives it access to Germany's richest state subsidy body — the Filmstiftung NRW, which doles out about $50 million annually.