UA bringing ‘Mountain’ to Minghella

In a deal that could put helmer Anthony Minghella behind the camera of another epic love story, United Artists president Lindsay Doran has ascended “Cold Mountain,” paying $1.25 million for the screen rights to the debut novel by Charles Frazier.

Doran’s former Mirage Enterprises colleagues Sydney Pollack and William Horberg will produce the pic along with Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa of Bona Fide Prods. (“King of the Hill” and “Election”).

Minghella — who won an Academy Award this year for directing his adaptation of “The English Patient” — is in negotiations to write and direct the Civil War-era drama for UA.

Based on true stories passed down from Frazier’s great-great-grandfather, the book tells the tale of a Confederate soldier who survives despite being seriously wounded in battle. The soldier then embarks on a perilous and lonely journey back to his love and home in North Carolina.

The deal includes bonus clauses based on film and book performances, which could bring Frazier an additional $450,000.

UA senior VP Jeff Kleeman will oversee the film for the studio.

According to sources close to the deal, the book was brought to Minghella’s attention by “English Patient” author Michael Ondaatje just before Mirage’s Horberg sent the book to the helmer.

“Cold Mountain” becomes the first book Doran has purchased since she took the reins of UA last year.

“We are thrilled with the prospect of bringing this sweeping drama to the screen with the combined talents of Mirage, Bona Fide and writer-director Anthony Minghella,” Doran said.

Minghella currently is at work on an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s mystery “The Talented Mr. Ripley” for Mirage.

“Mountain” looks likely to become one of the next three pics he will direct. Minghella has first crack at “Mr. Ripley,” and he previously signed to helm the feature version of his BBC radio play “Cigarettes and Chocolate” for Miramax.

Michael Peretzian of the William Morris Agency represents the director.

“Cold Mountain” has become a publishing sensation since its release last month. Atlantic Monthly Press initially printed 25,000 copies of the book, but following glowing reviews and word-of-mouth, it has since gone back for six printings, totaling nearly 100,000 copies.

The book made its debut on both the Publishers Weekly and the New York Times bestseller lists this week.

Agent Lynn Pleshette of the Pleshette, Millner Agency negotiated the deal on behalf of Frazier’s literary agent, Leigh Feldman of the Darhansoff & Verrill agency.

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