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NEW YORK – Jim Carrey is to star in New Line Cinema’s remake of the 1947 comedy “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” with the studio closing on a deal with “City Slickers” scribes Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel to begin redrafting the film with hopes of getting it into theaters for Christmas 1998.

Carrey met with the writers last week at his house, sources said, and they hit it off. New Line, which once shocked Hollywood by paying Carrey a career-high $7 million to star in “Dumb and Dumber,” met the star’s current asking price of $20 million against 20% of the film’s gross.

Carrey had been in lengthy negotiations to star as Mitty (Daily Variety, Aug. 26), a timid guy who daydreams about being a swashbuckling hero. Danny Kaye first took on the role in a 1947 adaptation of the story by James Thurber.

The deal puts New Line back in business with a star who brought in two $100 million-grossing films for the studio.

Ganz and Mandel, scripters of comedies that include “A League of Their Own,” “Splash,” and the upcoming Columbia adaptation of the musical “Into the Woods,” will be paid $2 million against $3 million. A director has not yet been fixed on.

Samuel Goldwyn Jr., whose father’s company produced and distributed the original, will produce, with John Bard Manulis executive producer. It also looked likely that Carrey’s managers, Jimmy Miller and Eric L. Gold, would be active in producer capacities on the project, but they did not return calls Monday.

The current timetable calls for Carrey to star in the film after he completes the Peter Weir-directed “Truman Show” for Paramount. Carrey recently completed the Tom Shadyac-directed comedy “Liar, Liar” for Imagine, which Universal is slotting for a March 21 release.

The deals were put together by New Line prexy Michael DeLuca and exec veep Richard Saperstein, with Carrey repped by UTA’s Nick Stevens and managers Miller and Gold.

TROUBLED WATERS FOR ‘CAROUSEL’: For an independent feature with a fairly unknown writer/producer, “Electric Carousel: The Movie” seemed to have a lot going for it. In the production charts of the Hollywood Reporter, the film promised a Nov. 30 start date, with John Waters directing and Judd Nelson starring. There was even a press gathering at Planet Hollywood in New Orleans, where the film is supposed to shoot, and a casting call. The only problem is that Waters not only hadn’t committed to the film, he’d never heard of it. Same for Nelson.

“First of all, ‘Electric Carousel: The Movie’ is probably the tackiest title I ever heard of,” said Waters, whose actual next effort is entitled the much catchier “Pecker.” “I guess this would be funny if it was a hoax, but apparently it is an attempt to make a real film and I just want people to know that’s not me,” he said last Wednesday. “I can’t believe nobody got suspicious after the Planet Hollywood event.” Waters obviously did not attend that event.

After Waters began making inquiries to the local press and film commission, the pic’s writer-producer Ben Castro (whose company is called Alamar Entertainment) came clean in a statement. He wrote the screenplay, about a teen dance show, he said, but ran into a common Catch-22 facing fledgling filmmakers: Castro couldn’t get financing without attaching talent, and couldn’t get talent without financing. He came up with a strategy that is novel, though dishonest and possibly illegal.

“Inspired by the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ and the phrase ‘build it and they will come,’ I promoted it with my intended star and director. I felt completely confident that once we secured financing, they would be more than happy to be in ‘Electric Carousel: The Movie.’ Somehow, that dream didn’t pan out,” he understated.

Castro vowed to get his movie made, but apologized for dragging Waters and Nelson into his scheme, which he denied was a scam. Waters, seemingly satisfied Monday that the matter was settled, was intrigued by what could have happened had he kept quiet.

“My biggest question is, how far was he going to take this?” said the director. “Would he have someone posing as me directing? I would get Steve Buscemi if it was to be a young version of me, Don Knotts if I was old.”

“Pecker,” by the way, is about a Baltimore sandwich shop worker who somehow becomes a star of the art world. “He’s called that because he pecked at his food like a bird,” said Waters. “It’s not a dirty movie at all.”

METAFILMICS SCRIPT SALE: Michael Goorjian, who has had a recurring role on “Party of Five” and a starring role in the Cloud Nine-produced pic “The Flood,” is ready to step up and try writing and directing. He’s placed his first script with Metafilmics, a producing partnership between Stephen Simon and Barnet Bain, and they’ll be shopping “Waking the Magician” to studios this week for Goorjian to star in as well as direct.

Simon, the former head of production for Ray Stark and Dino De Laurentiis, and Bain, whose screen credits include the 1979 pic “Jesus,” formed Metafilmics to fill a new age niche of filmmaking. Goorjian’s script, which they described as “Romeo and Juliet” meets “The Last Wave,” fits perfectly into that scenario.

Simon said Metafilmics will “make films with philosophically empowering viewpoints, a response to clearly established trends in publishing and music, where racks and racks of new age, self-help and empowering titles are the fastest growing segments of those industries.”

He said that with few exceptions, like “Phenomenon,” Hollywood has ignored an obvious market niche. While this could clearly mean a lot of soundtrack opportunities for John Tesh, it’s helped Metafilmics get a foothold. Its first project is the Interscope pic “What Dreams May Come,” with Robin Williams starring, Ron Bass scripting and Vincent Ward directing. Goorjian’s script will be brokered by ICM’s Todd Feldman and manager Leonard Grant.

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