EXCLUSIVE: Greek ship owner and businessman Paris Kasidokostas-Latsis is looking to make film financing less laborious by launching the Hercules Film Fund. The fund will finance three to five wide-release films a year. The first project it has co-financed is Doug Liman’s Tom Cruise starrer MENA, which began principal photography this week in Atlanta. Universal Pictures is distributing.

In parallel, Kasidokostas-Latsis’ partner Terry Dougas is forming new production banner Rhea, the Greek name of the mother of all the ancient gods. Rhea will be the producing vehicle for all films financed by Hercules. Rhea is co-producing MENA, with Kasidokostas-Latsis, Terry Dougas and Jean-Luc De Fanti serving as executive producers. Imagine, Quadrant Pictures and Cross Creek Pictures produce the pic about a TWA pilot recruited by the CIA to provide reconnaissance on the burgeoning communist threat in Central America. The pilot finds himself in charge of one of the biggest covert CIA operations in history, one that spawned the birth of the Medellin cartel and eventually nearly brought down the Reagan White House through the Iran-Contra scandal.

Legendary film finance veteran Joe Cohen of American Entertainment served as an adviser to the creation of the fund, which will be Luxembourg-based and will look to bring in other key European investors. Sky Moore served as legal counsel.

“In real estate, we say ‘location, location, location.’ For film…it’s director, director, director,” said Kasidokostas-Latsis. Added Dougas, “We want to be the destination for directors with both franchise and tentpole projects in addition to supporting prestige and passion projects.”

Hercules and Rhea Films will operate independently from 1821 Media, the multimedia production and finance company, already owned by longtime business partners Kasidokostas-Latsis and Douglas. 1821 Media has a number of projects set up at studios, including William Wheeler’s Untitled Kyriakides project for Disney and Mayhem Pictures and The Odyssey for Warner Bros. with Harry Potter producer David Heyman. The company also is co-financing Natalie Portman’s Jane Got A Gun, comic book icon Stan Lee’s With Great Power and Paul Weitz’s Grandma. 

Private equity is playing an increasingly prominent role in the financing of films. Hercules will focus primarily on studio-type projects suitable for wide releases, as sought by the like of David Ellison’s Skydance, as opposed to the edgier fare that attracts Megan Ellison’s Annapurna or Molly Smith’s Black Label Media.