Ex-New Line Chiefs Going Into Business With Paul McCartney's Squirrel

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It's good to see exiled New Line bosses Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne back in the trade mix today, spoon-feeding Variety the scoop on the bundle of films in development at their new Unique Features shingle. Better than good, actually, with their fistful of titles wielding the kind of promise that will make Warner Bros. sorry it ever showed them the door. Like Elf: The Musical? Or an adaptation of Paul McCartney's rodent opus High in the Clouds? And there's more where that came from. For what it's worth.

The paper reports that Unique has a bead on Clouds, a kids book co-authored by McCartney and featuring the tale of a "squirrel's quest to find an animal sanctuary." The ex-Beatle has committed to several songs for the animated film, Shaye confirmed, while another musical adaptation, Cy Coleman's classic City of Angels, is supposed to move from Broadway to film with Barry Levinson at the helm. Both Elf and Secondhand Lions (yes, that Secondhand Lions, the 71st highest-grossing film of 2003), meanwhile, are being groomed for the stage.

Warner Bros. still has first-look privileges with Lynne and Shaye, the latter of whom insists he isn't bitter about getting the boot from the studio he co-founded over 40 years ago. Not that he's totally over it, either: "The projects that New Line's name is on, and three or four coming up, were all pictures Michael and I were behind and approved," Shaye told Variety, "and there is a sense of personal satisfaction in seeing movies work, even if we don't get financial credit for them. It validates your point of view." On the flip side, no one at Warner's is sending Shaye a bill for having stunk up the lot with Semi-Pro or Over Her Dead Body, so let's just call it even and let Macca's squirrel musical break the tie. And if they don't bring up the Secondhand Lions musical again, neither will I. Accidents happen.

· Lynne, Shaye plot 11 pics [Variety]



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