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Prospective buyers try to get jump on Crichton book

NO BOOKIE, NO LOOKIE: Rumors were flying yesterday that Joe Roth, using his relationship with the author of “Rising Sun,” had made a preemptive buy of Michael Crichton’s soon-to-be-published novel. Other sources were convinced Steven Spielberg, who’s currently bringing the writer’s “Jurassic Park” to the big screen, definitely had the inside track on the unpublished manuscript.

But, the truth of the matter is, Crichton is still writing his untitled book, which reportedly deals with sexual harassment. Crichton’s CAA agent Bob Bookman doesn’t expect to see the manuscript until the beginning of next year at the earliest. Sources said Bookman’s phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from paranoid types worried they’re being aced out of seeing the material.

All this premature hype was similar to what surrounded both “Jurassic Park” and “Rising Sun” before they hit the town. In the case of “Jurassic Park,” four directors and four studios wanted to buy it and Bookman had each of them make identical offers; Crichton went with Spielberg. “Rising Sun” was also submitted through directors, but Roth was the only one who actually stepped up to the plate to make a deal.

The aptly named Bookman is also out with the new Scott Turow book, “Pleading Guilty” (to be published in June), which hasn’t exactly caught fire in the feature world and looks destined for the miniseries route like the author’s last outing, “Burden of Proof.”

Pat Conroy’s next book, “The Queen of Coins”–which like his “Prince of Tides” is a highly charged, intimate family saga set in the South–also is expected for delivery in early ’93.

BEYOND SLIVER: Sometime after she wraps “Sliver” in late January, Sharon Stone hopes to star in Carolco’s “Manhattan Ghost Story,” a Robert Lawrence production that was originally developed as a Julia Roberts vehicle. Stone met last week with Carolco topper Mario Kassar to discuss the project and according to her agent, ICM’s Guy McElwaine, the actress “definitely wants to do the movie.”

He expects to begin negotiations in the next couple of weeks. The Ron Bass script, inspired by T.M. Wright’s novel, is a supernatural love story/thriller about a New England photographer who comes to New York and embarks on a torrid affair with an otherworldly woman. Active talks are under way with some major directors and Carolco hopes for a spring start.

Stone is also still interested in starring in “Pin Cushion,” pending director approval.

THE DEVIL & (NOT IN) MISS JONES: Hollywood Pix has optioned two non-formula remake properties for Laurence Mark to produce.

Bette Midler and Glenn Close are being talked about for the role of the eccentric millionaire in a remake of Sam Wood’s obscure 1941 Jean Arthur-Robert Cummings starrer “The Devil and Miss Jones.” The new script is being written by Midler’s longtime comedy writer, Bruce Vilanch, and Patricia Resnick (“9 to 5, “”Straight Talk”). In the updated version, the role of the millionaire (played by Charles Coburn), will be a woman–a disagreeable recluse who goes undercover as a shoe clerk in her own department story in order to investigate worker unrest.

Kathy Najimy (“Sister Act”) is likely to play Jane in “Antonia and Jane,” a 1991 BBC movie directed by Beeban Kidron from Marcia Kahan’s original screenplay that is being newly adapted to the big screen by playwright Wendy Wasserstein (“The Sisters Rosensweig,””The Heidi Chronicles”). Story centers on the friendship between the plain and awkward Jane and her girlhood pal, the statuesque Antonia, a friendship fraught with envy and jealousy that ultimately survives.

HANKS TAKES A FOX DETOUR?: There are rumors that, in the wake of Fox movie toppers Joe Roth and Roger Birnbaum leaving the studio and

reconvening at Disney under Roth’s indie banner, Tom Hanks may not wind up making his new deal at Fox. Nothing has been resolved, as Hanks is off shooting Jonathan Demme’s AIDS movie for TriStar, “Philadelphia.”

As for Meg Ryan, another recent Roth acquisition at Fox, the actress’ deal was already sealed by the time the studio chief announced his departure, so she’s expected to move her Fandango production concern to the lot in the next few weeks.

NEW LINE WOOING A CREATIVE POOL-A: DISH hears that New Line Cinema has been aggressively pursuing Fox’s senior VP of marketing Chris Pula for its top marketing post, which is being vacated by Sandra Ruch by January. Pula, who’s revered by many of his Fox colleagues for not exactly being shy about speaking his own creative mind–even when it’s unpopular or uninvited–has been restless and unhappy about the less-than-democratic environment in the marketing division.

The four-year Fox veteran, whose contract reportedly runs for another year, also is rumored to have been approached by Disney for a senior marketing post. Pula pooh-poohed our speculation by not returning our phone calls.

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE: Just seven months after UTA trumpeted that it had hired Dani Sexton away from rival ITA, the parties are parting ways. UTA sources suggest that Sexton’s impending departure in part has to do with the arrival of her former ITA boss, Judy Hofflund, who became a UTA partner last month. Sexton, who was Hofflund’s assistant at ITA before becoming an agent herself, has a contract that runs until late March.

Meanwhile, as the agency world spins … Barry Mendel, a casualty at ICM after 5 1/2 years following the ITA acquisition, is joining UTA, where he reunites with his onetime ICM boss, UTA partner Jeremy Zimmer.

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