Nichols options 1st novel ‘Plan’

Director Mike Nichols has optioned Scott B. Smith’s first novel, “The Simple Plan,” in a deal valued at $ 1.1 million.

Nichols is paying a reported $ 250,000 upfront out of his own pocket and will likely lay off the cost to a studio at some point. Knopf will publish the book in fall of 1993.

The complete breakdown of the movie rights deal, negotiated by Lynn Pleshette of Pleshette & Green, is $ 250,000 against a purchase price of $ 750,000. Represented by New York-based book agent Gail Hochman of Brandt & Brandt, Smith will receive $ 150,000 against $ 350,000 for adapting the book. The deal provides for a second-year option of $ 100,000, not against the purchase price.

Nichols, who read the book last weekend and called Pleshette at 7 a.m. Monday to say he wanted the material, told his agent of his intention to make this a priority project after his upcoming Columbia Pix production “Wolf.”

Nichols could not be reached by press time yesterday. Nichols’ frequent collaborator John Calley will produce the movie.

“Simple Plan” is a dark and edgy thriller about two brothers who discover a huge sum of what is believed to be dirty money, which triggers an unusual train of events.

In her cover letter accompanying the submission of the book to film rights bidding, Pleshette described the work: “What this novel makes us experience, in the most powerful and personal way, is that none of us is inured from evil, either in the world or within ourselves.”

Pleshette said yesterday, “It’s about desperation of greed and it’s the best plotted book I’ve read since ‘Presumed Innocent.’ ”

The agent noted her excitement about Nichol’s interest, and also expressed her enthusiasm for the book’s 27-year-old author, who prior to this sale has had one short story published in the New Yorker.

“It’s thrilling to know such a talented young author as Scott Smith can have the opportunity to work with a filmmaker as great as Mike Nichols. I’m also excited that you would not think of this kind of material for Mike Nichols and matching a talent like him to this material could give it a great deal of tension.”

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