Everett, Roberts redux

DAYS AFTER TRISTAR snapped up his pitch to become moviedom’s first openly gay British intelligence agent, “My Best Friend’s Wedding” star Rupert Everett was near a deal with Touchstone on another pitch, “Martha and Arthur,” which will reteam Everett with “Wedding” star Julia Roberts.

The film would be similar in spirit and humor to “Wedding,” where Everett and Roberts wound up together, despite a seemingly awkward match between a gay man and a straight woman. In “Martha and Arthur,” Everett plays a macho movie star who’s married to Roberts — a ruse to hide the fact that he’s clearly gay but doesn’t want his screen audiences to know it. So they keep up the appearance of marital bliss. It will mark the third screen pairing of Everett and Roberts. They first met during Robert Altman’s “Ready to Wear,” before reteaming for “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” a film that has jump-started Everett’s career Stateside.

Sources said that while he was doing press on “Wedding,” Everett took meetings last week to pitch his idea for “Martha and Arthur.” Before any other studio could properly respond, Disney — where Roberts’ Shoelace Prods. is set up — made a large preemptive bid and took the script off the market.

No details were available on the deal, since it includes provisions for the acting duties of both stars. Everett might write the script and Roberts’ company will produce. Everett has already agreed to write his TriStar secret service agent film, “P.S., I Love You,” with writing partner Mel Bordeaux.

Disney topper Joe Roth and Touchstone president Donald DeLine engineered the deal with ICM’s Jeff Berg, who sold the package. Everett is repped by ICM’s Nick Styne and Gallin/Morey’s Mark Epstein. Roberts is repped by ICM’s Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas. Neither the studio nor the agency would comment.

TRIO PLOT JUMP TO STAGE: Alfred Molina, Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub, who’ve been working together on the Tucci-directed “Ship of Fools” for Fox Searchlight, are going to take the partnership a step further. Dish hears they’re in talks to play the three principal roles in “Art,” the hit play in London that’s produced by Sean Connery and David Pugh, which will be imported to Broadway in the fall.

Sources said the “Ship” trio are hoping to play the roles of three friends who debate the artistic and financial merits of a painting one of them acquired. Tucci will try to do the play while in post-production on his film, when rehearsals for the play begin in February. Former “Wings” co-star Shalhoub, who got strong reviews for starring with Tucci in the latter’s “Big Night,” has been working nonstop post-“Wings,” starring in “The Tic Code” and Columbia’s “Paulie, A Parrot’s Tale.”

The three actors are repped by William Morris’ Frank Frattaroli . Molina’s managed by Joan Hyler, who confirmed that her client, who just finished co-starring with Bill Murray in the Jon Amiel-directed “Watch That Man,” was negotiating for the role originated by Albert Finney in Britain.

MOUSE SHOW PACT SHOCK: Disney’s cozy relationship with the network it owns, ABC, is raising hackles at agencies across Hollywood. Dish hears Disney’s asking show creators to sign contracts essentially giving their blessing in advance to perpetual licenses with ABC. Though there are built-in license fee increases in the deals, most reps feel these will not keep pace with free-market bidding that occurs if a show’s a big hit — and threatening to bolt to another network.

“It’s creating shock waves all over town,” said one talent advisor. “People involved in a hit show could always count on benefiting from a renegotiation by the studio of the fifth or sixth year of a series with a network to wipe show deficits. Now, all bets are off if this deal becomes a template for the way business gets done.”

That’s because both Warner Bros. and Paramount also own networks, and other webs are getting more into production.

MODEL DIRECTOR?: Columbia’s in serious talks with Gillian Armstrong (“Little Women”) to direct “Model Daughter,” signaling a surge of activity for the Daniel Waters-scripted satire of the modeling industry. The script has long been an inhouse fave at Columbia, said to be much in the irreverent spirit of “Heathers,” which Waters wrote.

It concerns the battle between a divorced couple who own rival modeling agencies. Their fight is over the allegiance of their daughter, who has emerged as a supermodel. Michael Costigan is the Columbia exec shepherding the project.

CASTINGS: Famke Janssen has been signed as a female lead in Woody Allen’s fall project. After coming on the scene as the Bond girl with the thighs of steel, she’s completed starring roles in Largo’s “City of Industry,” Island Pictures’ “The Gingerbread Man” and Disney’s “Deep Rising.” She just wrapped Ted Demme’s untitled pic opposite Denis Leary and Martin Sheen. …

Nia Peeples has landed the female lead in “Blues Brothers 2000” at U. Peeples, most famous for the TV series “Fame,” has passed on several series, hoping to do one for which she’s written a pilot. It’s called “Educating Annie,” and she’d play an attorney who tires of L.A. and moves to Canada with her son to live with her eccentric grandmother. Culture clash ensues. She’s working with the “Due South” team of Kathlyn Staller, Jim Henshaw and Peter Mohan.

AGENCY MOVEMENT: “Fifth Element” director Luc Besson has left Creative Artists Agency and is shopping for new representation. This news from Besson’s office follows a Buzz column mention in Variety that noted he was upset that he wasn’t approached to be part of a package the percentery is shopping for the biopic of Jean-Dominique Bauby — the French journalist who wrote a book despite being completely incapacitated by a stroke — which went to “Shine” director Scott Hicks. He wouldn’t comment further on when he’d be meeting other agents. …

UTA landed up-and-coming director David Dobkin, who came out of commercials and videos, and made his feature directing debut on “Clay Pigeons,” the Polygram-financed pic that stars Vince Vaughan, Janeane Garofalo and Joaquin Phoenix.

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