Jonathan Lawton is gassing up to write and direct New Line’s Howard Stern project, titled “The Adventures of Fartman.”

The film, which will be budgeted at a bloated–for New Line–$ 8 million-to-$ 11 million, is expected to go into production next May in New York. David Permut will produce the film under his Permut Presentations Banner, which has a first-look deal at New Line.

For Lawton, who scripted “Pretty Woman” and the current box office success “Under Siege,” the deal amounts to much more than a hill of beans: The pact for his services as writer and director include a pay-and-play clause, which means he must direct the film if it gets made.

Although Stern has publicly announced that his film debut for New Line would be as the Fartman character, most insiders felt that the character would never actually see the light of day. This was especially true after Stern’s tepidly received appearance at last September’s MTV Awards, where he flew onto the stage as Fartman.

But Lawton, who directed “Pizza Man” under the pseudonym J.D. Athens, said he convinced New Line exex that the Fartman concept was more than a lot of hot air.

“The time for a superhero parody is very ripe, given how seriously ‘Batman’ and some of the other superhero films take themselves,” said Lawton, who met with Stern last week and immediately pitched his idea to New Line exex. “I don’t think it’s a one-joke premise. It will be a real comedy with a beginning, middle and an end with a strong story. Anything less from Howard Stern would be a cop-out.”

According to Lawton, “The Adventures of Fartman” will revolve around the superhero and his alter ego, a magazine publisher in the mold of Screw magazine’s Al Goldstein. Lawton also explained that the character becomes Fartman after mistakenly taking a high colonic filled with gasoline.

Lawton says the film will be scheduled so as to allow Stern to continue appearing on his top-rated morning show while “Fartman” is in production. “He’ll do the show in the morning and film in the afternoons,” Lawton said.

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