DOUBLE DEAL FOR ‘SIMON’ DUO: Now that their adaptation of the Ryne Pearson novel “Simple Simon” has landed “Get Shorty” director Barry Sonnenfeld and is on the verge of getting an A-list leading man – Nicolas Cage, Bruce Willis and more recently George Clooney are possibles – writers Larry Konner and Mark Rosenthal have set up two pitches at Universal with producers Imagine Entertainment and Joseph M. Singer Entertainment that will pay the scribes a total of $1.8 million in upfront money, sources said.
They’ll get $850,000 against low seven figures to write “Walter Reade,” a military hospital drama, followed by a blind second project worth $950,000 against low seven figures. The projects will be produced by Imagine’s Brian Grazer and producer Joe Singer, who are teaming up on “Simple Simon.” The U execs are production prexy Marc Platt and Leonard Kornberg, with the writers repped by CAA’s Tory Metzger.
The first pic is set at the Walter Reade Hospital, where patients are dignitaries, judges and politicians, and the doctors are soldiers. Though it’s considered to be the most secure hospital in the country, a doctor/soldier uncovers a series of possible murders.
“It combines the moral issue of a man who is a soldier, but also a doctor, and where his loyalties lie,” said Karen Kehela, Imagine’s president of motion pictures.
Konner and Rosenthal just adapted the remake of “Mighty Joe Young” at Disney for director Ron Underwood. “Simple Simon” is about an FBI man on the lam with an autistic boy, and Grazer said the script was so strong that the producers quickly tried to bring the writers back for more.
Aside from “Simple Simon,” Imagine and Singer have two of Universal’s big spring hopefuls. Imagine’s “Liar, Liar,” with Jim Carrey starring and Tom Shadyac directing, opens in March, and the Singer-produced $110 million volcano drama “Dante’s Peak,” starring Pierce Brosnan and directed by Roger Donaldson, opens Feb. 7. Imagine has also just made a deal for two more scripts from John August, who adapted “How to Eat Fried Worms” for Tommy Schlamme to direct.
OUTBREAK’ SCRIBE GETS DEAL: These days the spec market could hardly be called infectious, but Robert Roy Pool, one of the writers on the virus pic “Outbreak,” has landed a low- against high-six-figure spec deal for the actioner “Scramjet” from Silver Street Prods. Silver Streeters involved in the deal were partners Bill Mancini, Rich Abrams and their associate, Liane Weintraub.
The production company, in which Martin Landau is a partner, has a first-look co-financing deal with MGM/UA. “Scramjet” is based on a story Pool created with James Egan and Pool’s “Outbreak” co-writer, Dr. Laurence Dworet. It’s described as a tense drama set in the world of high-tech, super-secret military aviation.
Pool, who’s repped by Ross Fineman of Major Clients Agency, has a pool of projects hatching at Touchstone. His UFO drama “Vanished” has Michelle Pfeiffer attached, and his script “Premonition,” about the imminent crash of a giant asteroid, has Gale Anne Hurd ready to produce.
FROM BLUE TO GREEN LIGHT: Paramount-based producer David Brown has acquired the screen rights to the 1990 Paul Watkins novel “In the Blue Light of African Dreams.” It takes place in France between the world wars and involves an attempt to be the first to fly over the Atlantic Ocean, a distinction ultimately attained by Charles Lindbergh.
Watkins recently set up his novel “Archangel” with Robert Benton, and the “Blue Light” special came about after the success of “The English Patient,” which has opened the door to sweeping period dramas.
Brown’s vice president of creative affairs, Kit Golden, brought in the project. Paramount is already thinking Tom Cruise to play the pilot, but the studio has several prime books before the studio’s franchise star, including the bestselling Pat Conroy novel “Beach Music,” which Conroy himself is adapting.
TIG GETS DOUBLE DUTY FROM EXEC: Allison Conant, who started as Kevin Costner’s assistant and has worked at his and Jim Wilson’s Tig Prods. for nine years, has signed an exclusive writing deal with her bosses. Tig will produce her first script, “Bettie,” a period piece based on the life of Bettie Weaver, daughter of the Sundance Kid and Etta Place. Conant had shared development duties at Tig with Gregory Avellone. The latter will hold that post alone for Tig when Conant begins her writing career.
“Nothing pleases me more than to find a gem of a writer in our own backyard,” Wilson said.