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Shelton finally sees green for ‘Blue’ with Friedkin

A GREEN LIGHT FOR BLUE CHIPS: Ron Shelton’s long-in-development-hell project “Blue Chips,” about corruption in college basketball, is finally going to get its day on the big-screen court, with William Friedkin directing and Nick Nolte starring for Paramount. After 12 years of studio turnarounds and numerous incarnations, the movie is set to go in May, thanks to fan Sherry Lansing–who, by the way, is married to Friedkin.

Friedkin, like Shelton, is a sports enthusiast and according to Shelton, when it comes to basketball “is the most wonderfully obsessed man I know. … He’s also a terrific filmmaker, he knows this world, and he’s always been looking for a basketball project.”

Shelton, whose previous basketball-themed movie “White Men Can’t Jump” was a hit for Fox last year, said he would have loved to direct “Chips” but his availability and this project “never worked out.” The writer, who will exec produce, is in the middle of writing a script he’ll direct for Fox on legendary baseball player Ty Cobb.

Nolte previously starred in Shelton’s 1983 political drama “Under Fire,” directed by Roger Spottiswoode; and the actor and Friedkin almost collaborated on a previous basketball-backdropped movie, “That Championship Season,” which was ultimately made with other players.

In true Hollywood fashion, “Chips” bounced around from studio to studio, originating at Time Life Films, going to MGM, then Fox, where former movie studio head Joe Roth put it into turnaround before “White Men” opened (whoops!).

According to “Chips” producer Michelle Rappaport, who exec produced “White Men,” Roth “wanted the project back” after the Wesley Snipes-Woody Harrelson pic hit but it was too late. The script was set up at Paramount under Brandon Tartikoff, who ultimately tossed it into turnaround when the parties couldn’t agree on a director and actors. “While we were in a very short turnaround, Sherry came in and was most enthusiastic about getting it back,” said Rappaport, noting how much the script changed and evolved over the years and how Shelton’s latest version is “very different and updated” from his original.

One un-Hollywood-like aspect of the “Chips” history is that no other writer ever touched the script other than Shelton.

Nolte plays a good-hearted college basketball coach who has to face the dilemma of compromising everything he believes in to keep winning after he falls on hard times and has to break the rules to recruit great prospects–otherwise known as blue chips.

While the two movies are very different, Rappaport said “White Men” actually originated from a small scene taken out of “Chips.”

CAN’T FORGET: Producers Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck reportedly have an offer out to Dana Carvey on their hot project “Clean Slate,” a comedy about an amnesia victim. Mick Jackson is said to be attached to direct it next, as a follow to his current $ 100 million-plus sleeper hit “The Bodyguard.”

IT’S NEWS: Damon Wayans has committed in spirit, if not in deal form, to star in David Permut’s production for Hollywood Pix of “Good News, Bad News,” about a stand-up comic taken hostage by a group of terrorists who assume he’s something he’s not. Hollywood officials are hot on getting the movie up and running by spring, but must await news from Wayans about the status of his script “Blankman” at Columbia.

That studio is trying to make a deal with the Hudlin Bros. to direct the super-hero spoof, which Col wants to rush into production for a Thanksgiving/Christmas ’93 release. However, there’s reportedly some major sparring going on over creative control issues.

YO, NEW LINE: While New Line Cinema was once high on putting “Yo Alice,” David Permut’s hip-hop musical version of “Alice in Wonderland,” on its ’93 production slate, the movie company just put the project on the turnaround block. Sources say it was a matter of budget. So, what else is new?

Permut supposedly felt the event-type movie warranted bigger production bucks than the under-$ 10 million New Line was willing to dance to. The unavailable-for-comment producer reportedly has a lot of interest in “Alice” from some major recording artists and is in the process of setting the project up elsewhere. Yo, David.

WHEN YOU’RE HOT, YOU’RE HOT: Flavor-of-the-year screenwriter Mark Steven Johnson has just been signed to a pay-or-play, two-picture blind script deal by Ned and Nancy Graham Tanen, for whom he’s adapting Dean Koontz’s just-published novel “Dragon Tears.” Johnson is also doing a rewrite of their upcoming production “Cops and Robbersons”–both for TriStar.

Since the young screenwriter–whose pic “Grumpy Old Men” rolls soon for WB–signed with William Morris’ Alan Gasmer and Jim Stein last spring, he’s also sold his spec “Big Bully” to Lee Rich Prods./WB and “The Pro” to Disney and was hired by Lee Rich/Universal to script “Shoal Creek.”

MEDAVOY BONER: Does the New York Times know something we don’t know? A recent article about blue jeans in the paper’s style section had TriStar chairman Mike Medavoy out of a job. In the piece, “Speaking in Jeans,” it was noted that in Entertainment Weekly’s article last year on Hollywood’s Top 101 “power people,” Sony Pix dudes Peter Guber and Mark Canton were sporting loose-fitting jeans, while Medavoy wore a suit “and the next month, was relieved of his duties as chairman of TriStar Pictures. Coincidence?”

The faux pas caused all hell to break loose at Sony’s Culver City headquarters, where executive protectors immediately demanded a correction, and got one. “We were obviously annoyed to see a newspaper with the Times’ reputation make such a bonehead mistake,” said a Sony Pictures spokesman, “but we were happy they corrected it.” So was your boss.

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