Denzel dons 'Shades'; Lane gets 'Gunshy'

WASHINGTON TAKES “SHADES”: With movie project pitches proliferating, some pitchers are adding stars to the mix to make their films even more attractive.

For instance, Fox is paying mid-six figures against high six figures for “Shades of Gray,” a pitch to be written by Adi Hasak with Stuart Kelban. That’s a lot for a pitch, but it surely helped that Hasak had Denzel Washington in the room during the pitch, making it easy for Fox prexy Tom Rothman and senior VP Jorge Saralegui to envision him in the role of a down-and-out Brooklyn DA in a drama reminiscent of “The Verdict.”

Hasak hooked up with Washington because he and Washington’s Mundy Lane Entertainment partner Cecil Cox worked as ICM assistants. They’ll tailor it for the actor, and the three will produce under Washington’s Fox deal. Washington plays a DA whose informant has been killed. While he’s expected to prosecute, he encounters a legal dilemma that could bury his career and his case.

Hasak last year set up the pitch “Triple Cross” for $600,000 against $1.25 million at Universal with George Clooney, which he’s writing with Ric Gibbs. He also just set up the political thriller “Moscow Nights” at Universal, which he’s hired Deric Washburn (“The Deer Hunter”) to script. Hasak also set up “The Code,” a pitch about genetic research, which he’ll produce with Tom Jacobson at Touchstone, with Gita Ramano scripting.

The pitchmeister is a transplanted Israeli journalist who immigrated to the ICM mailroom and then to the desk of Lou Pitt, who sold Hasak’s first script for $100,000. Hasak’s now repped by Rob Carlson of William Morris Agency and attorney Patti Felker.

FAST LANE: Diane Lane, who just finished “Murder at 1600″ and the indie “The Only Thrill,” and William Petersen are set to join Michael Wincott in the Jeff Celentano-directed “Gunshy,” a Periscope pic produced by Neal Stevens, Larry Gross and Whitney Hunter. Lane plays the object of desire of two men, a journalist (Petersen) and a hit man (Wincott). Lane’s managed by Joan Hyler and agented by CAA’s Jane Berliner and Mike Nilon, while Petersen’s repped by ICM’s Colton Gramm and Tracey Jacobs and managed by Cindy Chavatal.

DOWNEY OUT OF “WILD THINGS”: Scratch Robert Downey Jr. from the Mandalay Entertainment film “Wild Things.” Downey planned to star with Kevin Bacon for John McNaughton, but Dish hears Mandalay and Downey couldn’t agree on a major issue: who’d pay the near seven-figure insurance premium required because of the actor’s probation for past drug problems.

Mandalay wanted Downey to pony up, but he refused. Downey has done two films since straightening himself out: James Toback’s “Two Girls and a Guy” and Robert Altman’s “The Gingerbread Man.” Sources close to him say he’s got plenty of other offers. The key will be how soon a big studio bites.

STIRRED, NOT SHAKEN: Downey’s not the only one with a bond dilemma. For weeks, MGM has been quietly shooting down rumors that ex-UA topper John Calley would lure away the James Bond franchise to Sony. When the Wall Street Journal mentioned it in a Calley profile, MGM chairman/CEO Frank Mancuso was left feeling like the opposite of a Bond martini: stirred not shaken.

“The rights to the James Bond franchise are not for sale,” he said. “There is simply nothing to bid for, much less grab.”

Another MGM insider suggests the chances were as good as prying loose the Batman franchise from WB or “Star Trek” from Paramount. Calley himself called the WSJ mention “a dumb thing. UA has the Bond franchise and the last film did $350 million worldwide, so it’s not remotely conceivable they’d give it up. It’s madness.”

Of course, Calley was at Warner Bros. in 1983, when the studio did a rival Bond pic with Sean Connery, “Never Say Never Again.” Other Bond rights are being hawked, and Calley was unwilling to say never again, or comment on the notion Sony might hatch a rival film.

REINVENTING A CLASSIC: Filmmakers are getting clever at rethinking remakes. Just as Alexandra Seros is making her update of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” by turning the warring duo into male punch-drunk boxers, producer John Williams is about to shop a script that takes the 1939 John Ford-directed classic “Stagecoach” in a whole new venue: space.

Williams got rights to the original Ernest Haycox short story “Stage to Lordsburg” and had Rob Moreland draft a telling of the story in outer space, turning it from Western to sci-fi. Moreland wrote the DreamWorks comedy “Pink Slip” and the UA sci-fi thriller “Legacy.” He’ll shop his “Stagecoach” script this week.

ONE WAY TO FINANCE COLLEGE: Martin Hynes, who logged seven years of college before graduating last year from the USC Masters Directing program, has just optioned his spec “Stealing Stanford” to Imagine films for $150,000 against $400,000. The comedy’s about a couple who turn to a life of crime when they find it’s the only way to finance their daughter’s college education. The deal was made by Jordan Bayer and Matt Leipzig of Original Artists with Universal and Imagine production prexy Karen Kehela and veep of development Maureen Peyrot. Chris Brancato and Bert Salke are producing.

While crime’s one way to finance college, specs is another. “I’ve been going to school seven years, and my student loan officer is happy about this development,” Hynes admitted. He’ll also make his feature directing debut at Live Entertainment with “Something New,” a romantic comedy he wrote, with Stacy Kramer producing.

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