The first time producer Robert Evans encountered the work of writer-director George Gallo, he was so moved by the filmmaker’s little-seen “29th Street,” starring Danny Aiello and Anthony LaPaglia, that he called Barry Diller at home to tell t he then-Fox topper his studio had mishandled a possible masterpiece.

Four years later, Evans and Paramount Pictures have made a deal for Gallo to adapt the 1986 Douglas Martins novel “The Cinch,” about a government scheme to partner with an organized crime family in the multibillion-dollar illegal gambling that takes place on Monday Night Football games. Evans, who ran Paramount when Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” saved the studio, is wagering that Gallo’s the second coming of Coppola. So he’s pushing to open the film March 14,1996, the 25th anniversary of “The Godfather’s” debut.

Evans said Par production president John Goldwyn gave the film a thumbs-up 48 hours after Evans, Gallo and his ICM agent Bill Block came to the studio to pitch the $25 million project.

Gallo said Paramount’s confidence has given him back the enthusiasm he lost after the disappointing experience on his second Fox film, “Trapped in Paradise.” Of that project, he would only say, “When you work in an environment of gestapo filmmaking, nothing good comes of it.”

But this time, “I wrote 40 pages in five days, and Bob and I would like to be on the floor shooting by August,” said Gallo. “This is the kind of project I’ve been waiting for.”

In the film, the feds scheme to infiltrate the Chicago mob by using a computer to accurately predict the outcome of pro football games. The feds plant agents who win bets until they bleed the mob so badly that the government is accepted as the mob’s business partner.

“When you’re talking about $1 billion bet each week, you’re looking at two kinds of people, the noses and the government,” said Gallo.

“The book had half the story, but what George has added is the computers, and the plot element that the so-called good guys can be people who do things for the wrong reasons,” said Evans, who has wanted to work with Gallo since his chat with Diller.

“This is like deja vu, like meeting Coppola 30 years ago,” said Evans. Added Evans: “Like Francis, Gallo’s not a front-office guy, he’s an actor’s guy. He’s made me feel 10 years younger.”

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