The neverending ‘Deal From Hell’

Now that Viacom’s Sumner Redstone has emerged victorious in the bitter struggle for Paramount Communications, the only major thing still to be decided is who will portray Redstone, Martin Davis, Stanley Jaffe, Barry Diller, Wayne Huizenga and others in “The Deal From Hell.”

That’s a telepic being developed by Ray Stark from several highly critical New York magazine columns penned by Christopher Byron.

Stark’s Rastar Prods., which produced the celebrated HBO pic “Barbarians at the Gate” about the contentious battle that resulted in RJR-Nabisco, is expected to dissect the Par power struggle with the same cynical point of view, using as its basis two memorable Byron-penned articles: “Mogul in a Mess,” featuring the memorable cover of a cranium-clutching Diller, and “The Deal From Hell,” which will be the title of the picture.

Though Stark produced “Barbarians,” co-producer Marykay Powell is expected to supervise the Par drama.

Like many journalists, Byron has questioned whether Par’s value was overinflated by the stubbornness of two power players, unaccustomed to taking nofor an answer, who were egged on by Wall Street.

The subplot will include the intense mutual loathing between Diller and Davis , the abrasive management style that ruled Par’s Gotham headquarters, the preponderance of Par employees named Jaffe and former Par exec DavidKirkpatrick finding his office furniture had been dumped on the lawn when he exited the studio.

Already, there’s talk about bringing back “Barbarian” co-conspirators Larry Gelbart to write the script and Glenn Jordan to direct.

Dish couldn’t resist making suggestions for the casting process, which could provide several roles for follically challenged actors. The late Ralph Bellamy (“Trading Places”) would have been perfect as Redstone, but amply upholstered oatmeal pitchman Wilford Brimley seems right. For Diller, how about Ed Harris, with the shaved cranium he sported in “The Firm”? For Davis, how about Sydney Pollack or Christopher Lloyd? “Love Boat’s” Gavin MacLeod is Huizenga. Mary Steenburgen for Sherry Lansing?

After the Wall Street Journal story on Jaffe, the kneejerk reaction would be to convince Ralph Fiennes not to shed his “Schindler’s List” weight, but a suitable alternative could be Robert Duvall, an actor intense enough to emote into a spontaneous nosebleed in a staff meeting.

The principals were mum on casting and other matters. Said Byron: “Ray Stark optioned what I wrote and I’m happy.” Said Rastar spokesman Don Safran, “We never discuss projects in development, especially a project such as this, which is much too sensitive.”

MARLON MEGABUCKS: When ICM inked Marlon Brando, some wondered about the limited commission potential, since the reclusive thesp works so infrequently. But Brando’s agreed to star in New Line’s “Don Juan de Marco and the Centerfold” and will drive an ICM package that’ll put the percentery in commission city. Brando will play a psychotherapist in mid-life crisis who’scharged with evaluating whether a young guy — ICM client Johnny Depp — is insane just because he thinks he’s Don Juan.

Jeremy Levin, the ICM client who wrote the script, gets to direct. For his efforts, Brando will be paid in the neighborhood of $ 3.25 million against 12 1/ 4% of the gross. This is easily the most New Line has paid an actor as it continues to emerge as an A-product distribbery. But remember the big guy got about $ 5 million for a week’s work in “Christopher Columbus: The Discovery.”

He’s working six weeks for New Line, so by comparison Brando will be getting minimum wage when he starts work in May. New Line will have the opportunity to release the pic at a time when Brando awareness will be sky-high, with his $ 5 million Random House autobiography and an unauthorized Hyperion bio by Peter Manso due out around year’s end.

DID BOB CATCH FOX VIRUS?: The dueling over Robert Redford by rival virus pix “Crisis in the Hot Zone” at Fox and “Outbreak” at Warner Bros. might not have been as feverish as advertised.

Though no deal has been signed, Dish hears Redford has long been linked to “Crisis,” the Lynda Obst-produced pic, and is poised to star for director Ridley Scott when shooting starts in May. This is despite WB’s attempt to outfox Fox with a last-ditch offer to Redford for its pic, to be directed by Wolfgang Petersen and produced by Arnold Kopelson.

THE OPERA CONTINUES: Since Andrew Lloyd Webber weeks ago chose Glenn Close over Patti LuPone to play Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” when it comes to Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre (Variety, Feb. 7-13), the composer has immersed himself in the task of turning his billion-dollar musicals into movies. The top priority is “The Phantom of the Opera,” and Dish hears Lloyd Webber is in serious talks with Bruce Beresford — who was once set to helm the film version of “Les Miserables”– to direct.

SIEGE MENTALITY: Now that Warner Bros. has indulged franchise star Steven Seagal’s directorial aspirations with “On Deadly Ground,” the studio’s on firm ground asking Seagal to catch a train for “Under Siege II.” Dish hears the studio hasmade a formal offer to Seagal for the sequel, which would be an adaptation of “Dark Territory,” a spec script by Matt Reeves and Richard Hatem, to which Gary Goldstein is attached as producer.

The script is commonly described as “‘Die Hard’ on a train.”

WB enters “Dark Territory” after commissioning and then nixing a Don Jakoby “Under Siege II” script involving a chase on a nuclear-armed stealth boat. Meanwhile, crix anxious to get a look at Seagal’s eco-actioner — with its trimmed-down morality speech finale — are skeptical about studio excuses that there won’t be any advance screenings because the print was delayed by earthquake damage to post-production facilities.

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