Costner getting ‘Message’

Thesp signs to star in Sparks novel adaptation

Kevin Costner’s in negotiations to star in “Message in a Bottle,” an adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel at Warner Bros., with Denise Di Novi producing, sources said.

Last week, both Costner and the studio maintained there were no formal discussions on “Message in a Bottle,” with Costner bottled up in post-production on the WB film “The Postman,” which he directed and is readying for holiday release. But sources said that talks have become serious and a commitment is near.

After finishing a film in which he plays a man who tries to deliver mail in a post-apocalyptic world, Costner would once again be working on a film in which letters are delivered in an unorthodox way.

The novel is about a search for true love that begins when a female journalist walking along the beach at Cape Cod stumbles across a bottle that contains a love letter from a man to his wife. She’s so moved by the letter that she falls in love with its writer and sets out on a search to find him. Costner would play the lovestruck letter-writer.

Penned by the author of the bestselling “The Notebook,” “Message” sold quickly to WB and Di Novi early this year (Daily Variety, Feb. 20, 1997), in a $1.5 million deal brokered by UTA agents Richard Green and Howard Sanders. It was sold after Sparks had written only the first 127 pages.

While most book-to-movie transformations take at least 18 months to come together, Di Novi and WB brass, led by executive vice president Robert Guralnick, quickly hired “Phenomenon” scribe Gerald DiPego to adapt the title. DiPego’s resulting effort led to a seven-figure blind script deal with WB. More important for the project, it has allowed the studio to entice Costner for his next open slot.

A Costner commitment would make “Message in a Bottle” the eighth film he’s made for the studio, in WB’s most enduring relationship with an A-list star this side of Clint Eastwood. Other WB films Costner has starred in are “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “The Bodyguard,” “JFK,” “A Perfect World,” “Wyatt Earp,” “Tin Cup” and “The Postman.”

After logging double duty as star and director of “The Postman,” Costner would only star in “Message.” WB and Di Novi will now look to find a director and an A-list female lead, with the likes of Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfeiffer and Sandra Bullock being considered, sources said.

Di Novi, who is making her mark at WB after moving over from Turner Pictures, has Bullock ready to star in “Practical Magic.”

The hope is to begin filming “Message in a Bottle” in March or April 1998, eyeing a Christmas 1998 release. Costner is represented by attorney Harley Williams.

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