NEW YORK — Danny DeVito has come aboard “The Crowded Room,” developing a script with scribe Todd Graff with an eye toward directing Leonardo DiCaprio in the true story of Billy Milligan, a man who developed 24 personalities.
A DeVito/DiCaprio pairing would end what may seem like 24 incarnations of the film, which has come together and fallen apart with some of the biggest names in the business. Based on the Daniel Keyes book “The Minds of Billy Milligan,” the film was originally optioned and fast-tracked for James Cameron to direct John Cusack at Fox in 1992. That pairing fell apart after disputes between Cameron and rights-holder Sandy Arcara. After Cameron took “True Lies,” Milligan sued, and Cameron abandoned the project.
The rights came loose and were picked up by Warner Bros. production president Bruce Berman and New Regency’s Arnon Milchan. Joel Schumacher nearly directed Brad Pitt in the starring role not once but twice, and then later tried with Billy Crudup but couldn’t fit it into his schedule. “Seven” director David Fincher also targeted it as a vehicle for Pitt. Then it was Sean Penn and Steven Soderbergh. By the time Berman left his WB prexy post and became the pic’s producer with Milchan, things looked good with Nick Cassavetes poised to direct DiCaprio as Milli-gan. But Cassavetes took another movie and when he checked out, “Room” was vacant again.
That might well change with DeVito, who has pro-duced such hard-to-mount films as “Get Shorty” and “Pulp Fiction.” As a director, his last effort was the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “Matilda,” which earned more than $100 million in worldwide box office receipts, although it under-performed in the U.S. DeVito and Graff spent the last few months redrafting the film from scratch. They’re nearly finished and will bring it to DiCaprio, who’s looking for a film to follow “Titanic.” Other actors like Penn are also still interested.
MOVIES ON THE MOVE: Shakespeare continues to be the comeback kid. After Fox scored with the Baz Luhrmann-directed adaptation of “William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet,” Fox Searchlight is on the fast track with an adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Script’s by “One Fine Day” director Michael Hoffman, who’ll helm “Dream.” Dish hears the studio’s wooing Kevin Kline to topline. Kline, who starred in the hit “In & Out,” drew acclaim for his turn in the Ang Lee-directed “The Ice Storm” for Searchlight. The film’s produced by Leslie Urdang. … A groundswell is building for Lawrence Kasdan’s newest script, “Mumford,” an indie film about a Dr. Mumford who turns up in the town of Mumford and becomes a beloved shrink and town matchmaker. He becomes such a part of the town’s fabric that when the rival shrink questions his credentials, nobody listens. Early word is Kasdan’s angling for Johnny Depp to play the title character. … George Clooney’s explanation for dismounting “Wild Wild West”? “We knew going into this that to make it work would be a stretch, but the opportunity to work with Will (Smith) and Barry (Sonnenfeld) was too exciting to pass up,” Clooney said. “Ultimately, we all decided that rather than damage this project trying to retrofit the role for me, it was better to step aside and let them get someone else.”
A NICHE FOR MITCH? Robert Mitchum earned an Oscar nomination early in his career with “G.I. Joe” in 1945, and if hair-care magnate John Paul DeJoria has his way, Mitchum will vie for Oscar glory for the last film he made before passing away. DeJoria, who co-founded Paul Mitchell Hair Care and is pictured in its ads, entered the movie business by executive producing and financing “Waiting for Sunset,” a film that starred Mitchum and Cliff Robertson and was shot in Europe. DeJoria and his production associate, Alan Oberholzer, have been waiting for domestic distribution.
But they also wanted Mitchum to have one last shot at a Golden Guy. So he, Oberholzer and their wives have taken matters into their own hands. They will underwrite and sponsor a one-week Los Angeles showing Dec. 17-23 at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills to qualify the film and its stars for Oscar consideration.
The effort will cost him about $10,000 and might cloud future distribution prospects, but DeJoria doesn’t care. He’s working with Mitchum’s son, Chris, to arrange the Dec. 17 premiere, to be stocked with a bunch of Mitchum’s co-stars along with — they hope — SAG Awards and Oscar voters.
FROM NECK TO PITCH: After his script “One Neck” hooked director Ole Bornedal at Dimension, Todd Alcott has scored a pitch deal worth $325,000 against mid-six figures for an untitled pitch he’s set up with Touchstone and producer Robert Lawrence.
Alcott’s idea is a dark comedy about a real estate speculator who acquires and renovates homes in which grisly murders were committed. Alcott most recently rewrote “Town and Country” for Warren Beatty at New Line and the computer-animated DreamWorks film “Antz.” The scribe is repped by ICM’s Todd Feldman and Leora Block, and managed by Linne Radmin of the Radmin Co.