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MGM rings up ‘Bellboy’ redo

NEW YORK — With the market booming for comedy remakes, Jerry Lewis has sold remake rights to “The Bellboy” to MGM and producers Gary Foster and Mark Steven Johnson’s Horseshoe Bay Prods.

Lewis — who made his directorial debut on the 1960 pic, which he also wrote and starred in — made a deal that allows him to be involved in the development process, as well as an option to play an onscreen role.

No dollar figures were released on the deal, but it is substantial and commensurate for what the studio feels will be a tentpole comedy with international appeal. As for a star, MGM president Michael Nathanson said, “We’re in discussions with somebody right now,” but wouldn’t name his hoped-for bellhop. Nathanson hopes to have the film in production by the summer.

Nathanson and executive vice president Greg Foster (the brother of Horseshoe Bay producer Gary Foster) made the deal with William Morris’ Jeff Witjas, Rob Carlson and Alan Gasmer, who repped Lewis. Attorney Neil Fischer also repped Lewis.

True in spirit

Gary Foster said the new film will be true in spirit to the original, but there will be one major difference that made MGM the right studio for the project.

“The original was set in the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, and this one will be shot at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, a nice tie-in between the studio and Kirk Kerkorian’s hotel,” said Foster. “It’ll take place on the weekend of a big heavyweight fight, and you’ll be able to see the money, the chaos and the glamour that is Vegas today.”

The Fosters got to tour the MGM Grand the weekend of the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight. “We spent four hours seeing the opportunities the hotel offered, and we plan to take full advantage,” said Foster.

The remake-’em-laugh boom market began when Imagine hit pay dirt with the Lewis comedy “The Nutty Professor” with Eddie Murphy, who just completed filming the remake of “Dr. Dolittle.” Robin Williams is about to open in “Flubber” (a redo of “The Absent-Minded Professor”) and Warner Bros. continues to try to tempt Jim Carrey with a new version of the 1964 Don Knotts comedy “The Incredible Mr. Limpet.”

MGM is already working on a new “The Fortune Cookie” and “The Court Jester,” with the latter starring Mike Myers.

Earlier this year, Lewis sold remake rights to “The Errand Boy” to Touchstone and producers Tom Jacobson and Roger Birnbaum (Daily Variety, May 1).

Right actor, right role

“The Bellboy,” according to Nathanson, is “the quintessential Jerry Lewis comedy of its time. It’s set in an arena where, when we find the right actor to play the role, will give them a forum to display many talents.”

The deal took time to unfold, partly because Lewis is very protective of the source material.

“We’ve agreed to treat this carefully, and Jerry will be involved,” Foster said. “He considers this his baby and he cares about it. What was fun about the original is though everyone thought he was a silly bellboy, the guy displayed enough humanity and intelligence to make you willing to go for the ride.”

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