Fox fills coffers of pauper politico

Winning a fierce bidding war, Fox 2000 slapped down what sources said was a whopping $500,000 against $1 million (plus another $500,000 directing fee for pitchman Alan Shapiro) for a pitch for studio-based Horizon Pictures. The project is on the life story of Peter Leonard, the man with an elementary-school education who gained national recognition when he won a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

Shapiro, who had acquired Leonard’s life rights earlier this month, will write and direct the project for Paul Schiff and Michael London under the producers’ term deal.

Leonard spent only $42 on his campaign to defeat the incumbent in the state capital of Manchester. The new state rep earns only $100 a year in his government post, and is supported by food stamps, welfare and Social Security disability payments. In making the rights deal, Leonard will get the biggest payday in his life. He shares in the money from the sale to Fox.

The pitch became the center of a bidding war that included Warner Bros. for Paula Weinstein, Castle Rock Entertainment, and Universal Pictures for Imagine Entertainment. After a pitch meeting with Shapiro, Schiff got the Laura Ziskin-run studio label to step up and seal the deal.

Leonard, a 53-year-old handyman whose office is the local O’K Parker’s bar and restaurant and whose desk is the bar or the pool table, won national recognition in February when the New York Times ran an article about his win.

He granted Shapiro his life rights when Shapiro tracked Leonard’s phone number to the bar, then flew to New Hampshire and had coffee with him (Daily Variety, July 15). The Gersh Agency’s Richard Arlook and attorney Bill Skrzyniarz brokered the deal on behalf of Shapiro.

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