New Line nabs ‘Bachelor’ spec

NEW YORK — New Line Cinema paid $850,000 against north of $1 million to purchase the Steve Cohen spec “Bachelor” in a sale that’s memorable for two reasons: It’s a big-money sale in a slow marketplace, and it’s also a remake of a silent film.

The film is a contemporized version of the Buster Keaton comedy “Seven Chances,” about a terminal bachelor who learns he’ll inherit $120 million of his grandfather’s money if he gets married by his 33rd birthday. Trouble is, he’s a day away from both blowing out the candles and blowing the fortune. So how does one write a script based on a movie with no dialogue?

“I had to write all the dialogue myself, and I didn’t use a single scene card,” said Cohen, a former director of development at Savoy Pictures who began scripting when Savoy shuttered. Though he probably could have remained silent and cribbed the story without anyone remembering — how many times has “Die Hard” been ripped off? — Cohen tracked down the rights from the Keaton estate.

“A lot of the inspiration comes from Keaton; it’s all right there in his performance,” said Cohen. “The film was about to enter the public domain after almost 75 years, and when I tracked down the guy who controlled the rights at the Douris Corp., he was only too happy to cooperate.” Cohen got the rights for a small option fee.

“Once I figured out the reason he didn’t want to get married, the rest came quickly,” he added.

So did the sale. His William Morris agents Sara Bottfeld and Alan Gasmer sent it to studios Tuesday, and by Thursday three studios were vying. Fox 2000 and Warner Bros. — bidding for “Batman & Robin” star Chris O’Donnell — were interested, but New Line prevailed.

The project was brought in by producer Lloyd Segan, who produced “Blown Away” and “Judgment Night” and has a deal at New Line. Creative exec Donna Langley and veep of production Mary Parent brought it to production prexy Michael De Luca, who made the deal.

Sources said it’s contractually guaranteed to be on the fast track, as the project has a nine-month window to get into production before the rights revert back. Segan said the film’s a virtual shooting script, and De Luca called it “a highly entertaining and castable romantic comedy and we’re looking forward to putting it together immediately.”

As for Cohen, the Columbia grad was celebrating his first spec sale by getting to work directing “The American Way,” a documentary about his hometown, Metropolis, Ill.

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