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Reuters

Sonnenfeld Sacked from 'Snicket'

Mon January 13, 2003 03:33 AM ET
By Michael Fleming

NEW YORK (Variety) - "Men in Black II" director Barry Sonnenfeld has been fired from "Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events," a troubled children's movie starring Jim Carrey.

He becomes the project's second casualty after producer Scott Rudin quit late last year following bruising budget battles with Paramount Pictures.

The studio has since brought aboard DreamWorks as a production partner, and it's known that Sonnenfeld does not get along with DreamWorks production chief, Walter Parkes, who also produced "Men in Black II."

Despite their mutual disdain, sources said Sonnenfeld still expected to be the film's director until his representatives were informed the studios would be replacing him.

"Snicket" is Sonnenfeld's favorite book, and he hung in when Paramount asked for cuts in the budget and in the compensation of the principal players. That prompted Rudin's exit and the arrival of DreamWorks.

Sonnenfeld would not comment on his exit, but when Rudin quit, the director acknowledged that Paramount's risk-averse executives got very tough on a film whose budget was a shade under $100 million at the time.

About $9 million was saved by moving a Gotham shoot to Wilmington, N.C., but Paramount wanted an additional cut of $5 million. The director favored taking a break to allow author and screenwriter Daniel Handler to lose some of the pricier pages so that Paramount's dollar demands could be met.

Jim Carrey is still aboard as the film's star, subject to Paramount and DreamWorks hiring a new director to his liking. Paramount will retain domestic distribution territories while DreamWorks takes foreign.

DreamWorks is also expected to take the creative lead, as co-founder Steven Spielberg and his lieutenants are more adept at managing special effects-heavy franchise spectacles for the half-pint set than Paramount.