Universal and DreamWorks circled the wagons to buy “Cowboys & Aliens,” a double-genre pitch that will become the next writing and directing assignment for Steve Oedekerk, who handled that double duty on “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” and on Touchstone’s upcoming comedy “Nothing To Lose.”
The rights to the pitch cost $500,000 against $1.5 million, and Oedekerk will get a low seven-figure sum to write the script, and around $3.5 million to direct and produce, sources said. The total deal’s potentially worth $7 million if the film gets made.
That’s comparable with the upfront paydays Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich received for “Independence Day.” Of course, Devlin and Emmerich sold a spec script and got and a guaranteed greenlight and start date from Fox.
Oedekerk’s package was repped by William Morris agents Alan Gasmer and Rob Carlson.
The concept is a mix of science-fiction and Western: A space ship crashes in the Old West. Both the cowboys and Indians get hold of alien technology, weapons and hardware, and begin using it on each other. Finally, they’re forced to work together to battle the aliens who come to retrieve the ship.
“I want to do any movie I’m dying to see, and this is the ultimate movie I’d want to see,” said Oedekerk, who’ll start writing as soon as he completes the sequel to “The Nutty Professor” for Universal and Imagine. Platinum Studios co-owner Scott Mitchell Rosenberg cooked up the concept as a follow-up to “Men in Black,” a comic created by Lowell Cunningham at Malibu Comics. Rosenberg, who was Malibu founder/prexy at the time, developed the comic concept and set up “Men in Black” at Amblin with Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald and Steven Spielberg, who all have segued to DreamWorks. Rosenberg feels “Cowboys & Aliens” has the same “Black” humor and action potential. Platinum Studios, which opened its Beverly Hills offices last week, is a venture designed to exploit Platinum’s comic book library for movies and TV properties.
With more than 1,000 titles, Platinum is one of Europe’s largest rights house. It also distributes comics worldwide, and will launch a “Cowboys & Aliens” series to coincide with the film’s release. Rosenberg will produce the film with Oedekerk. Platinum Studios co-owner Ervin Rustemagic and veep of production Gregory Novek will be co-producers.
“On a conceptual level, ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ is one of those rare franchise properties that have the potential to not only be a great movie, but also to find life in other media and businesses,” Parkes said.
While Disney and Fox Family Films also aggressively chased the property, “Cowboys & Aliens” becomes the third Oedekerk film under the U roof, counting the “Nutty” sequel and the Robin Williams vehicle “Patch Adams.” U president Marc Platt and exec veep Kevin Misher worked with Parkes and MacDonald on the deal after Spielberg sparked to the pitch.
It’s the second recent co-production for the studios, which recently paired up on “The Age of Aquarius,” the Phil Robinson-directed drama starring Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas. Rosenberg’s attorney is Bob Wyman, while Oedekerk is managed by Scott Howard and lawyered by David Colden.
GLAZER STEPS UP FOR “FIREFLIES”: Mitch Glazer is the latest veteran screenwriter getting the chance to become a hyphenate. He’s been hired by Universal and producer Bob Zemeckis to direct “Fireflies,” a romantic drama about a pickup artist who specializes in one-nighters until he meets a woman just like him. When she pulls away from him, he finds himself falling in love, even when he realizes she’s suffering from a terminal illness.
Glazer will do a rewrite as soon as he completes the Touchstone comedy “Beat,” which Bill Murray will star in and direct. “The film ‘Beat’ is inspired by ‘Grosse Fatigue,’ a French film about a Woody Allen-like director who finds that an impostor is roaming the country and humiliating him,” said Glazer, who co-wrote the Murray vehicle “Scrooged” with Michael O’Donoguhe.
“Bill will play a pretentious superstar actor who’s hounded by a look-alike, whom Bill will also play. It’s a treat as a writer to have Bill reading lines in a room as you’re writing them.” Glazer’s latest script was “Great Expectations,” the Alfonso Cuaron-directed contemporized version of the Dickens tale that Fox will open at Christmas and stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Hank Azaria, Ethan Hawke, Anne Bancroft and Robert De Niro.
Glazer said when he was shown “Fireflies” as a rewrite job, he implored “Scrooged” fan Zemeckis to let him take the helm. “I’m just vibrating that he said yes.” Glazer’s repped by Joe Rosenberg and Beth Swofford at CAA.
PIGSKIN PILEUP: After scoring a hit with the Kurt Russell-starrer “Breakdown,” Jonathan Mostow is huddling with Universal to do “Leatherheads,” the Universal film about the early days of football. U has been trying to get the pic to the goal line for several seasons. Steven Soderbergh once tried it, and “Swingers” scribe Jon Favreau recently rewrote the script for the pic, which is set in 1926. Dish hears Mostow would work with Favreau to get it going. Mostow’s repped by CAA.
BELOVED LEAD: “Inventing the Abbotts” star Alessandro Nivola has signed on to star in “Beloved,” the next film from “Sarajevo” director Michael Winterbottom. The film’s set by Revolution and Polygram Intl. Nivola next will be seen in “Face/Off” and the John Hughes-scripted U pic “Reach the Rock.”
CASTINGS: Alfred Molina (“The Perez Family”), Christine Baranski and Barnard Hughes join Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon and Jonathan Silverman in rounding out the cast of “The Odd Couple” sequel at Paramount. Molina, who co-stars with Bill Murray in the Jon Amiel-directed “Watch That Man” at WB, is developing as a directing vehicle “Fog Harbor” with producer Steve MacAvedy. He’s repped by Hyler Management and William Morris, with Lou Coulson his U.K. rep … Tom Sizemore is in talks to take the key role of a gruff commander in “Saving Private Ryan” for Spielberg, Dish hears … Jim Caviezel joins Adrien Brody as newcomers getting the chance to star with a big cast for Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” for Pheonix and Fox 2000.