Stage scribes hit big screen

HOLLYWOOD — The latest batch of legit-to-film crossovers is being fueled by Hollywood’s percenteries. Creative Artists Agency is aggressively moving its playwright clients into screenwriting — including Michael Henry Brown, who penned the movie “Dead Presidents” after his “Day the Bronx Died” played the New York Jewish Theater.

Playwrights, said one CAA literary agent, “are a chic sell right now. They are more interesting to a development executive than a more expensive, established screenwriter whose last movie may not have opened.”

Other playwrights CAA has transmogrified into screenwriters include John Logan, whose play “Never the Sinner,” about the Leopold and Loeb trial, became a calling card to the studios.

He recently rewrote “Killer Spy” for Fox 2000, and his script “Pure Evil” is in development at Universal with Marco Brambilla attached to direct.

Another CAA client, Richard Dresser, is best known in legit circles for his play “Below the Belt.” But this season he wrote for the short-lived Steven Bochco series “Public Morals.”

Some legit clients of the William Morris Agency do rewrite work for the movies — including Eric Bogosian, who did a polish on the upcoming Costa-Gavras film “Mad City.” But WMA’s legit department generally frowns on moving top dramatic playwrights into screenwriting.

“Crossing playwrights over to careers as screenwriters is not where my interest lies,” said George Lane, who heads Morris’ theater department. “My interest is to work with a playwright from soup to nuts, from workshop to seeing a play properly reinvented as a movie.”

WMA’s Michael Peretzian, a VP in Morris’ West Coast office, said, “There is something offensive and unattractive about rewriting to playwrights of the caliber of Terrence McNally, simply because they dread that happening to their own work.”

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