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Hack-Happy Hollywood

Not since the heyday of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees has hacking been so in demand in Hollywood. Only this time, it’s computer hackers, and the market is becoming glutted with projects. In fact, many studio buyers were reluctant to go after the screen rights to the story of computer expert Tsutomu Shimomura, who tracked down the notorious cyber-felon Kevin Mitnick. The rights were linked to a New York Times article by John Markoff, who’s turning the story into a book.

But Miramax wasn’t daunted by any competing projects, and snapped up the rights.

“We’re talking about a ton of projects that all face the same dilemma: How many compelling ways can you shoot a person typing on a computer terminal?” said one buyer, who felt the swarm of projects in development could face meltdown if the first few films malfunction.

The first test will come late summer when United Artists opens “Hackers,” the Iain Softley-directed actioner about a gang of eggheads whose hacking makes them prime suspects in a criminal conspiracy.

Columbia is currently in production on “The Net,” with Sandra Bullock as an agoraphobic computer expert who’s placed in danger when she stumbles onto secret files. Touchstone has “The Last Hacker,” which is closest in spirit to the Miramax project. It’s the story of hackmeister Kevin Lee Poulson, who faces a hundred years in prison for national security breaches and was so skilled he disabled the phones of KIIS-FM to be the 102nd (and Porsche-winning) caller. He was also accused of disabling the phones of “Unsolved Mysteries” when he was profiled.

Simpson/Bruckheimer is developing “f2f,” about a serial killer who surfs the Internet for victims.

Numerous other projects are in various stages of development, including MGM’s “The Undressing of Sophie Dean” and the Bregman/Baer project “Phreaking,” about a pair of hackers framed for a series of homicidal computer stunts by a psychotic hacker. Related pix being planned are various virtual-reality projects, including movie versions of such games as Myst and Doom.

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