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Milchan nabs ‘Client’ for $2.25 million

Capping off a week of feverish, high-stakes bidding, best-selling author John Grisham’s next novel, “The Client,” has been sold to producer Arnon Milchan’s New Regency Prods. Sources indicate that the deal closed Sunday and that the selling price was in the neighborhood of $ 2.25 million.

The deal was brokered by the trio of Marti Blumenthal of the Writers & Artists Agency, Jay Garon, Grisham’s literary agent at Jay Garon-Brook Associates and Keith Fleer of Sinclair Tennenbaum.

While none of the three was available for comment, a source close to the deal says that the auction was held out of the Sunset Marquis Hotel, where Garon has been staying for the last week.

The book reportedly was leaked to the town two weeks ago before Grisham’s reps could implement their selling strategy.

Although he would not confirm the selling price, New Regency president Steven Reuther noted there was heavy competitive bidding for the book. This was especially true in light of the runaway success of Grisham’s other two novels, “The Firm” and “The Pelican Brief,” both of which are heading to the big screen.

“There was an enormous interest in John’s latest book,” said Reuther. “It was a very secretive process. All I can say is that the terms of the deal were very creative, interesting and fair and we’re thrilled, to say the least.”

The film will be an Arnon Milchan New Regency Production, which Warner Bros. will release worldwide. Reuther says the project will go into development immediately with the hunt to begin soon for a director and producer.

“The Client,” a contemporary thriller with a few similarities to “Witness,” is about a female attorney hired to protect a street-smart 11-year-old boy who witnesses a crime.

Grisham reportedly has been unhappy with several of the drafts of the screenplay for “The Firm,” and with his lack of input on the project. But a source close to this deal indicated that terms of the contract provide for the novelist to have more involvement with the screenplay than on “The Firm.”

According to additional sources, other bidders for the book included producer Dino De Laurentiis, who offered $ 1.5 million; and Paramount and producer John Davis, currently producing “The Firm” with Scott Rudin, who offered $ 2 million. The source said at least three other studios were involved, as were other producers.

Writers & Artists Agency also brokered Grisham’s last two movie deals, getting him $ 600,000 for “The Firm” and more than $ 1 million for “The Pelican Brief.”

“The Firm” is set to go before the cameras to star Tom Cruise and be directed by Sydney Pollack. “The Pelican Brief” was sold to Warner Bros. and producer-director Alan Pakula.

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