Roth, Disney in biz with ‘Says’

Joe Roth has his first go-movie at Disney, just days after once again setting up shop as an indie producer.

Roth, who resigned as chairman of 20th Century Fox three weeks ago, moved swiftly to pick up the film package “Angie, I Says,” a comedy-drama by Todd Graff with Madonna attached to star and Jonathan Kaplan likely to direct.

At the request of Fox-based producer Larry Brezner, the studio put the script into turnaround Wednesday night and within 24 hours he and Roth had concluded a deal to make the movie together.

Brezner, who produced Roth’s 1990 directorial debut “Coupe De Ville” (with Paul Schiff) and most recently Fox’s upcoming pic “The Vanishing,” said, “I agreed to take a cut in my fee to do the movie since (Roth’s) Disney deal doesn’t provide for a producer.”

The actual producing credits on “Angie” will be worked out later.

Roth and Brezner said they’re aiming for a spring production start and are hoping to make a deal with Kaplan to direct.

Kaplan was associated with the project while it was set up at Fox and his deal was about to be negotiated when the turnaround occurred.

“Nobody anticipates any problem in this area,” Brezner said regarding a deal with Kaplan. “As far as we’re concerned, we’re going in as a team.”

Roth concurred Friday that “certainly this was a picture we had every intention of making at Fox and we hope we can make it work out to do it here at Disney.” Roth was originally targeting “Angie” to begin production in March at Fox.

Brezner said that he asked Fox to put the project into turnaround when he was told that the studio wanted some major changes in the script if it was going to commit to making the movie.

“It was clear to me that the project would evaporate if I would have let that happen,” the producer said, explaining he did not agree with the script changes. “So, I requested turnaround and they complied, which I appreciate because they didn’t have to.”

Brezner said after Fox agreed to the turnaround, “I called Joe immediately and since we don’t have to worry about numbers, contracts or anything as long as we agreed on the movie–and we agreed–four hours after we had spoken it was a done deal.”

Based on a book by Avra Wing, Graff’s screen adaptation of “Angie” is a comedy-drama that centers around the relationship between two Brooklyn working girls, Tina and Angie, who are best friends.

Tina (the Madonna role) has a child out of wedlock born with a withered arm. Her friend Angie lives in an abusive relationship, and the bright light in her life is her friend Tina.

Brezner said in adapting Wing’s novel for the screen, Graff has built the entire third act around “the acceptance of the child.”

The producer acquired the rights to Wing’s novel in August 1991, hired Graff to script and develop the project at Fox with Roth, for whom the producer said “I have more admiration than anyone in this industry.”

Brezner said after reading the book, Graff decided the Tina character “was correspondent to the person of Madonna so he wanted to write it for her.” The producer sent the book to Madonna and “she loved it.”

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