A BIRD OF THE AIR, a new comic romance based on Joe Coomer’s highly acclaimed novel, “The Loop,” will be released by Paladin, it was announced by company president, Mark Urman. The film, which stars Rachel Nichols and Jackson Hurst, represents the feature film directorial debut of noted actress Margaret Whitton and is the maiden production of Tashtego Films, which she and her partners, Steven Tabakin and Warren Spector, formed in 2008. Paladin plans a fall release for the film.
Hailed as “deliciously quirky and perceptive,” by Publishers Weekly, and “impossible to resist” by The New Yorker, Coomer’s 1992 novel tells the story of Lyman (Hurst), a lovable loner whose job patrolling highways at night, aiding stranded motorists and injured animals, keeps him at a distance from other people. When an extremely rare and highly talkative parrot flies into his home one day, Lyman needs to figure out where the bird comes from and tries to decode its often cryptic and highly literary utterances. Enlisting the aid of Fiona (Nichols), a sexy librarian who is as interested in Lyman’s secrets as she is in the bird’s, the pair set off on a search that doesn’t always lead them where they think they’re going, but which gradually leads them to one another. Named one of the “Notable Books of the Year,” by The New York Times, Coomer’s novel was adapted for the screen by Roger Towne, whose credits include the film adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s “The Natural.”
About A BIRD OF THE AIR, Urman says, “this is a truly enchanting film that took me completely by surprise. Not only does it introduce two enormously appealing stars who are relative newcomers to the independent film scene, it also establishes Margaret, an actor whose work I have long admired, as a highly skilled director with a point of view all her own.” Warren Spector, executive producer of A BIRD OF THE AIR, said “We’re looking forward to working with Mark Urman and his team at Paladin. Mark’s credentials in the world of specialty distribution are second to none, and we’re delighted that he brings such expertise and passion to the distribution of this very special film.”
Steven Tabakin, who produced along with director Margaret Whitton, adds, “Mark Urman has an incredibly deep understanding of all aspects of filmmaking, and his wonderful taste and instincts — coupled with boundless energy — should make for a very exciting theatrical life for A BIRD OF THE AIR. We couldn’t be in more capable hands.”
Nichols, who will be seen later this summer as the female lead in “Conan the Barbarian,” just completed a season on the hit series “Criminal Minds,” and numbers among her credits such major studio releases as “Star Trek,” G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” and “Charlie Wilson’s War.” Hurst is best known as the male lead in the popular cable series, “Drop Dead Diva.” The supporting cast of A BIRD OF THE AIR includes such highly regarded performers as two time Tony-winner Judith Ivey, Linda Emond (recently on stage in Tony Kushner’s “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide ..…” ), Buck Henry (“Heaven Can Wait,” “The Graduate”), Phyllis Somerville, (“Little Children,” “The Big C”) and, following a long absence from the screen, Anjanette Comer, who played the female lead in Tony Richardson 1965 satire “The Loved One” and who starred opposite Marlon Brando in the 1966 western, “The Appaloosa.”
Whitton, whose prior directing experience has been for the theater, is best known for her appearances in such films as “The Secret of My Success,” alongside Michael J. Fox; “Nine ½ Weeks,” with Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke; “The Man Without a Face,” alongside Mel Gibson, and as the rapacious team owner in the hit comedy “Major League” and its sequel. Prior to forming Tashtego Films, Tabakin was George C. Wolfe’s Associate Producer at the Public Theater for a number of years, developing and producing such notable projects as Tony Kushner’s “Caroline, or Change,” Neil LaBute’s “This Is How It Goes,” Tim Robbins’ “Embedded,” Stew’s “Passing Strange,” and the Martha Mitchell one-woman show, “Dirty Tricks,” which was directed by Whitton and starred Judith Ivey. He has also produced a number of original drama projects for PBS and produced Bob Balaban’s film of “The Exonerated” for Court TV.
For A BIRD OF THE AIR, the filmmakers have assembled an exceptional technical team headed by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Philippe Rousselot, long associated with such major filmmakers as Tim Burton ( “Planet of The Apes,” “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory,” and “Big Fish”), John Boorman (“The Emerald Forest,” “Hope and Glory,” and “The Tailor of Panama,”), Robert Redford (“A River Runs Through It,” and “Lions For Lambs), Stephen Frears (“Dangerous Liaisons,” and “Mary Reilly”), and Neil Jordan (“The Miracle,” “Interview With The Vampire” and “We’re No Angels”), among many others. Costume Designer Joseph G. Aulisi, who worked with Whitton on “The Secret of My Success,” numbers among his credits such major films as “Three Days of The Condor,” “Billy Bathgate,” “Nobody’s Fool,” “Bowfinger,” and “Charlie’s Angels.”
Currently on-screen for Paladin is Tom Shadyac’s I AM, one of the year’s most successful documentary films. The company recently announced that it will distribute Tiffany Shlain’s award –winning film, CONNECTED, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.