Saturday 20 January 2018

Reversal of fortune for property tycoon with movie coup

Chicago Spire developer Garrett Kelleher is making waves in Hollywood.

Garrett Kelleher, right, with Liam Neeson and his late wife Natasha Richardson
Garrett Kelleher, right, with Liam Neeson and his late wife Natasha Richardson
Nick Webb

Nick Webb

Property tycoon-turned-Hollywood producer Garrett Kelleher has seen pop star Alanis Morissette sign up to play a key role in his new movie, Price of Desire, which is being made by his production firm, Lightstream Pictures.

Kelleher, who was best known for his ambitious plans to build the €1.5bn Chicago Spire – the tallest residential block in the USA – has been involved in the movie business since helping raise finance for Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, which took over $600m at the box office in 2003.

Price of Desire, which will be directed by Mary McGuckian, tells the story of iconic Irish designer Eileen Gray and her tempestuous life. Knight's Tale star Shannyn Sossamon will play Gray, with Morissette appearing as her lover Marisa Damia. Saga Films and EG Film productions are also involved in the movie. The project received €20,000 in fiction development loans in 2011 and a further €300,000 of development loans in July 2012, according to the Irish Film Board website.

Uniquely, the movie will run alongside a kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to help finance the renovation of Gray's landmark E1027 Villa in Roquebrune Cap Martin, where part of the movie will be filmed. The villa will be re-opened to the public when filming finishes.

"Eileen Gray's evolution as an artist, to recognition as a major influence on a century of minimalist and modernist design and architecture, has resonance and relevance today," said Kelleher.

Another Kelleher-fronted movie, Max Rose, was shown – out of competition – at the Cannes Film Festival last month. The movie featured the return to screen of legendary comedian Jerry Lewis following a 16-year hiatus. Kelleher's firm Lightstream was seeking to sell rights to the movie, which also stars Claire Bloom. The movie received mixed response at Cannes, with Hollywood Reporter noting "the Cannes festival has done no favours to Jerry Lewis by choosing this mummified melodrama as a vehicle to honour him". Meeow!

Despite the bitchy review, International Film Trust picked up the movie. "Our goal is to be a supplier of quality-driven feature films across all genres with clear commercial appeal for the right distributors. Max Rose ticks all those boxes," said Ariel Veneziano, president of sales at IFT.

Lightstream is also filming sc-fi chiller 2.22, with Social Network star Armie Hammer headlining the production. 2.22 is being filmed on location in New York and Australia.

Lightstream Pictures has proved adept at hiring some of Hollywood's biggest names for its projects. Woody Harrelson, Steve Buscemi and Sigourney Weaver all starred in the adaptation of the James Ellroy cop movie Rampart, which hit screens last year. The "dirty cop" film took $972,512 at US cinemas, according to boxoffice mojo.com. A further $570,000 plus was generated in the UK, South Africa and the Gulf.

The Kelleher-chaired movie company also produced the experimental Kirsten Sheridan movie Dollhouse, about wild teens in a free house in Dalkey. It starred Jack Reynor, who was later signed up to star in the new series of Transformer movies.

Kelleher's focus on producing movies comes as the property market in Ireland remains troubled. In 2011, Bank of Scotland had receivers appointed to a number of properties owned by Kelleher's Shelbourne Developments. These included a number of prime Dublin office blocks, which had about €200m in loans attached.

However, while the Irish property market may be like a ghost town for developers, Kelleher hasn't given up the day job. Last month it emerged that the developer was examining plans to kickstart his Chicago Spire project, with reports that he was interested in acquiring project loans from Nama.

Kelleher's company had originally borrowed $70m from Anglo to fund the project, with the sum rising to $93m before the Spire scheme became unstuck.

Last March, Nama appointed Jones Lang LaSalle to try to sell the Spire loans. The credits haven't rolled on Kelleher's dream just yet.

Irish Independent

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