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‘Sylvia’ to bark onscreen

“Sylvia,” A.R. Gurney’s Off Broadway comedy hit, is jumping from stage to screen with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton playing husband and wife for director Lawrence Kasdan.

The comedy is likely to be produced by CW Prods., the Par-based production company of Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner. Martin, who just scripted “Bofinger’s Big Thing” for Imagine Entertainment, is adapting the stage play, which won critical raves in New York and recently closed a successful L.A. run.

No word yet on which actress will play the title role in the comedy about a dog named Sylvia who charges into the lives of a married couple. The dog causes havoc between the husband and wife. The husband sees the dog as a more understanding companion than his wife while his wife sees the dog as competition, a threat to be reckoned with.

Don’t count on Parker

Sarah Jessica Parker created the role of Sylvia on the New York stage and Stephanie Zimbalist stepped into the role in Los Angeles. Sources said Parker’s schedule conflicts with the movie’s and that she will likely not re-create the role for the screen. (Parker and Martin worked together before in “L.A. Story,” which Martin scripted).

It’s not clear how Martin will adapt “Sylvia.” Perhaps the husband will see the dog as a woman, while the wife will see Sylvia as a mutt. Sources said that Martin and Keaton, who are friends, have been wanting to work together again. They last worked together on the “Father of the Bride” films.

“Sylvia” is the latest in a number of projects about pets and their almost human relationship with their owners.

Keaton had long been attached to direct “A Dog’s Life” (formerly “Pet People”) at Warner Bros. “A Dog’s Life,” about a dog who is magically transformed into a human and must get the lady of the house to fall in love with him before the pet snake (also made human) can seduce her, is now on the backburner.

Dog’s ‘Unconditional Love’

The now Time-Warner-owned development slate from Turner Pictures also has a similar project. Written by Amy Jones, “Unconditional Love” was sold in May 1996 for $1.25 million against $1.75 million. It tells the story of a single mother, her son and their dog, who becomes the man they are both missing from their lives.

DreamWorks is also said to have a similar project about a dog who turns into a person.

Martin and Eddie Murphy recently committed to star together in the Martin-scripted comedy “Bofinger’s Big Thing” for director Frank Oz. The Imagine Entertainment project is expected for a May 1998 start.

The deal would be the first for Kasdan since changing agencies. He last directed the Meg Ryan-Kevin Kline starrer “French Kiss.”

Deals must still be negotiated for “Sylvia,” so it’s not clear when the project will head before the cameras for Paramount.

CAA reps Lawrence Kasdan. ICM reps Martin. WMA reps Keaton.

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