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WB calls ‘Bluff’

Producer Arnold Kopelson on Tuesday purchased the week’s hot spec script, making an outright buy of “Como Bluff” for low six figures against mid six figures, sources said.

Written by first-time scribes Tom Sylla and John Soriano, the spec was sold to Warner Bros. by William Morris agents Alan Gasmer and Rob Carlson.

Inspired by a true story, “Como Bluff” takes place in Wyoming in 1870, as a veteran paleontologist teams with his rival female counterpart and a young adventurer against another bitter rivalon a fossil hunt that quickly leads to a race to uncover buried treasure. The big-budget film’s premise is similar to the Indiana Jones series — so much so that several buyers hesitated, since Jeb Stuart (“The Fugitive”) is currently scripting a fourth installment of the series, with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford poised for another go-round.

“Como Bluff” is the first team-up for the writers, the latest in a recent line of USC film school buddies to tag team for six-figure spec paydays. Less than a month ago, the spec script “Mango,” written by former Trojans Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, was sold to New Line for nearly $ 400,000 up front (Daily Variety, Feb. 11).

Soriano, originally listed on the spec under the pseudonym Thomas Nieze, is a vice president at director Rob Cohen’s Poco Prods., while Sylla is a San Francisco-based writer who’s worked for LucasFilm. They collaborated long distance via computer modem.

Despite the similarities to Indiana Jones, the script came out to much fanfare last Wednesday. Kopelson and his point man, Sanford Panitch, finally emerged with the winning offer.

On Thursday, Kopelson accepts his award as the NATO/ShoWest Producer of the Year for finally getting the long-stalled actioner “The Fugitive” to the screen.

Kopelson has been aggressively pursuing new material. In the past week, for example, he purchased the spec script “Furious George,” a black comedy about sibling rivalry scripted by Ben Schwartz and sold by Jordan Bayer of Original Artists.

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