Donner/Schuler-Donner, allied with sophomore writer Scott Abbott (“Walter Winchell”), has sold Touchstone on a pitch for a dramatic thriller loosely based on “The Count of Monte Cristo,” Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel of adventure in the post-Napoleonic era, according to sources close to the project.The original “Count of Monte Cristo,” published in 1844, is a tale of the swashbuckling adventures of a dashing young sailor who is falsely accused of treason and imprisoned in a French island fortress for 14 years. He escapes and seeks retribution from those who had him unfairly jailed. The Donner/Schuler-Donner pitch, developed with Abbott, sold for a low- against mid-six figure pricetag, according to sources. It shifts the story to a contemporary setting, but retains the key elements of a man wrongly accused and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, who then gets out of jail intending to exact revenge on the people who framed him. Mills Goodloe, a Donner/Schuler-Donner production exec, brought the project to Touchstone, where it was picked up by the studio’s Donald De Line and Todd Garner. HBO Pictures is skedded for an early 1998 production start on “Winchell,” Abbott’s first script, a biopic about vaudevillian turned media personality Walter Winchell. Pic, to be helmed by Paul Mazursky, will star Stanley Tucci in title role. Abbott is repped by CAA.
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