Another Killing

Joe Eszterhas, the writer of such steamy thrillers as “Jagged Edge” and “Basic Instinct,” has logged another record script payday, as Paramount has agreed to pay him a guaranteed $1.5 million against $3.4 million (when the movie gets made) to write a script called “Reliable Sources.” The movie will be directed by “One False Move’s” Carl Franklin, who’ll notch a payday of $1 million, according to reliable sources.

The deal matches the $3.4 million Eszterhas got from Columbia and Jon Peters to adapt the Howard Blum book “Gangland,” about John Gotti. But the “Sources” deal includes escalator clauses that could bring Eszterhas’ total haul to $3.9 million, making it perhaps the highest sum a studio has paid a screenwriter for a non-auction script buy.

Eszterhas, a journalist before becoming a screenwriter, dug back to his gonzo days for the film’s premise: “It explores journalistic ethics, through a 22-year-old reporter whose actions while covering a breaking story result in loss of human life. The question the script asks is what is the cost of the front page byline, both to the reporter and those he is writing about.”

Paramount Pictures chairman Sherry Lansing said she bought the project “seven minutes” into Eszterhas’ pitch because it offered a premise that fascinates her, and a director who has turned down several films she offered him.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the dilemma a journalist faces, when to run a story, when it’s worth printing a rumor or waiting until it becomes a fact, and how it affects the journalist and the people being written about,” she said. “And Joe brought to us a director I’ve been dying to work with. We’ve offered Carl several projects that didn’t spark him. There are great casting possibilities, and Joe’s first drafts are usually shooting scripts. I’m hoping to be shooting this movie within six months.”

Franklin recently completed TriStar’s “Devil in a Blue Dress,” starring Denzel Washington.

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