Scott huddles on Fox ‘Overkill’

“Overkill” has gone into overdrive since the hotly contested Reed Steiner spec script was acquired by 20th Century Fox last Friday for $ 675,000 up front. Director Ridley Scott has emerged as the major player in the project, with some insiders saying he’ll direct it as his next picture.

Scott, who with his brother Tony just set up a big production company with Fox as its distributor, actively bid on the project before Fox got it for producer Paul Schiff. Now, the studio is working out the details to involve Scott, possibly with Wesley Snipes starring and Scott’s company picking up the tab for the script. Other sources cautioned that Scott so far hasn’t committed beyond producing. Right now, Schiff is the producer of record along with Robert Stein, who manages the screenwriter.

How did Scott get involved? When Steiner’s agent, Jon Klane of Circle Talent Associates, began passing the script to producers, he also dropped a copy to Scott, who’s become a first stop for material because he has a studio affiliation and his own money. Scott happened to be in Los Angeles, hungry to do an action film. There’s action galore in this script, about a CIA agent who unretires to track down his protege-turned-assassin. (DISH counted 12 fatalities in the first seven script pages alone.)

By the time Scott joined the bidding — he went as high as $ 550,000 against $ 800,000 — Fox was well into it on behalf of Schiff, who has an exclusive deal there. Fox’s head of production Tom Jacobson nabbed it for $ 675,000 against $ 1 million and now has to figure out a way to add the Scott brothers as producers along with Schiff and Stein. After all, how many producers do you need to reach overkill?

‘PARTS,’ PART II: West Hollywood’s aversion to the Howard Stern book signing hasn’t hurt Howie’s stock in the publishing biz. DISH hears Stern’s peddling a follow-up to his bestseller “Private Parts,” described as more of the same. Simon & Schuster, which published the first book, and Doubleday are in a bidding war that has reached $ 5 million, sources say.

Stern got an estimated $ 1 million for the first book, which producers like Par’s David Picker and U’s Ivan Reitman are trying to option for a movie, a pending sale that could put another $ 1 million into Stern’s coffers. With the $ 6 million he makes from radio and the $ 5 million he’s expected to pull down from his New Year’s Eve pay-per-view special, Stern would have to take a paycut to do a latenight talkshow.

HIGHLANDER’ STAR ANKLING? After a long standoff on the set of “Highlander III ,” Christopher Lambert, who starred in the first two pix alongside Sean Connery, has sheathed his sword and walked away from the picture, DISH hears. Lambert is poised to jump into the lead role of Robert Longo’s “Johnny Mnemonic,” which TriStar will distribute domestically and Peter Hoffman is selling abroad.

Lambert, who was scheduled to reprise his title role in “Highlander” alongside Mario Van Peebles, refused to start work on the picture until the producers, Peter Davis and William Panzer, escrowed his hefty salary. Lambert finally tired of waiting around the Montreal set for six weeks. He bailed out, leaving “Highlander III” without a lead swordsman.

MIGHTY FEATURE: The hottest project currently being fought over by the studios is “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” a Saban Entertainment series that is Fox Broadcasting’s top-rated kiddie show, about a band of teens with martial arts skills who morph into dinosaur-battling superheroes. A shortage of the show’s toyline is creating riots in toystores this holiday season.

What better time for ICM’s David Greenblatt, along with Haim Saban’s attorney , Sam Fischer, to peddle the rights for a live-action feature? DISH hears Greenblatt was turned on to the possibilities by his 6 1/2-year-old son, Ben. Five studios are putting together proposals for the film, which is expected to reach theaters by Easter 1995.

If Greenblatt realizes “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”-type numbers on the sale, his son Ben might have a good case for a significant allowance increase.

RITA’S ROLE: Though Rita Wilson halted a promising feature career after marrying Tom Hanks, she shone brightly in the scene-stealing crying scene in Nora Ephron’s “Sleepless in Seattle.” DISH hears she’s now playing a bigger role in Ephron’s newest directorial effort, playing Steve Martin’s girlfriend in TriStar’s “The Night Before Christmas.” However, Ephron is still trying to cast the role of a troubled young woman who turns to a suicide hotline, and DISH hears the lead candidate is Jennifer Tilly, with Rob Reiner and Garry Shandling also pegged for roles.

PITCH PLETHORA: Judging by recent activity, the pitch is about as dead in Hollywood as it is on the baseball field. The bucks aren’t as big as the spec market can be, but it’s giving TV talent the chance to cross over to features. Wm. Morris’s Rob Carlson Wednesday hooked producer Martin Bregman on “Phreaking, ” described as “Generation X meets The Fugitive,” to be written by Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer, who wrote “Natural Selection” for Fox TV. Meanwhile, Adi Hasak, a writer/producer, set up a pitch by “Seinfeld” writer Andy Robin for his first feature at Hollywood Pictures, a comedy called “The Invitation.” Todd & Richey Jones, writers on “In Living Color,” got Fox to bite on their pitch for “Tweaked,” eyed as a project for Jamie Fox, who stars in the show and has a feature deal at the studio. Carlson brokered all three deals in the last few weeks, the latter with Morris’s Ann Blanchard.

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