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Wood in as Fox’s ‘Whiz Kid’

Twentieth Century Fox’s new family film division has purchased the spec script “Whiz Kid,” with “North” star Elijah Wood attached to play a 13-year-old who accidentally becomes a genius. Eyed for a late summer start, the script is expected to be the family shingle’s first production.

Also attached to the project is producer Bob Harper, whose last effort for Fox was “Rookie of the Year,” which grossed $ 53.6 million domestically. Fox made a preemptive buy worth nearly $ 300,000 against a total of more than $ 700, 000, including a guaranteed blind script commitment for the screenwriters, David Diamond and David Weissman. The deal was made by Original Artists head Jordan Bayer.

The script hit the market late last week, and, according to Bayer, Fox executive vice president Dylan Sellers championed it, leading to a quick buy to jumpstart president John Matoian’s family shingle at Fox.

“Bob Harper, Dylan Sellers, and Chris Meledandri spearheaded the quick response,” said Bayer, “and made sure that Fox had a deal by the weekend.” Meledandri has just moved over to join Matoian at the family shingle as executive vice president.

It’s the first spec sale for Diamond and Weissman, two old friends from Philadelphia. Diamond is a product of the New York University Film School, while Weissman holds a master’s degree from Brown University in Chinese intellectual history.

If the deal can be worked out, Wood will be playing the “Whiz Kid” by late summer or early fall, confirmed his manager, Brian Swardstrom of Brillstein/Grey Entertainment. Wood, who recently received the Young Star of the Year award from NATO/ShoWest, will be seen this summer in Rob Reiner’s “North,” and just completed the Jon Avnet-directed Universal pic “The War” starring Kevin Costner. It is the second recent spec script to which Wood has been attached, after MGM recently bought “Honor Bound,” sold by William Morris agents Dave Phillips and Jim Crabbe to producers Katie Jacobs and Pierce Gardner. Wood is expected to topline the MGM project sometime next year.

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