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MGM does ‘Dirty Work’

Norm Macdonald, the “Weekend Update” anchor of “Saturday Night Live,” has become the latest in a long line of “SNL” cast members to star in movies. MGM has bought “Dirty Work,” a script penned by Macdonald and his “Update” writing partner Frank Sebastiano, as a starring vehicle for Macdonald.

A rewrite is now being done by Fred Wolf, a former “SNL” scribe who wrote the Chris Farley-David Spade vehicles “Tommy Boy” and “Black Sheep.”

The purchase is the latest evidence that MGM is increasing production under prexy Michael Nathanson.

In this case, executive vice president Greg Foster targeted Macdonald as a rising star and pushed the studio to take his script off the market. The film will be produced by Robert Simonds, who has worked with “SNL” alum Adam Sandler on “Happy Gilmore.” Brillstein/Grey will exec produce. The studio’s pushing to hire a director quickly and start shooting the picture later this year.

In the film, Macdonald will play a loser who finally finds his calling: he opens a throving business devoted to revenge. Macdonald, who got a lot of mileage playing presidential candidate Bob Dole on “SNL,” had a supporting role in “Billy Madison” and “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” but this will be his first starring role.

Macdonald is repped by Endeavor and managed by B/G’s Ray Reo, with attorney Jared Levine.

UA DIVES INTO WESTLAKE: United Artists has optioned “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?,” a caper comic novel by Donald Westlake that was just published by Warner Books. The project was set up by producers Lawrence Turman (“The River Wild”), John Morrissey (“Booty Call”) and Wendy Dytman under the Turman-Morrissey shingle, with UA exec veep Rebecca Pollack Parker making the buy for the studio.

The novel’s about a crook who gets caught robbing the house of a billionaire. The rich guy gets even by telling the cops that the robber’s ring — his good luck charm — is his, and the crook spends the rest of the book trying to get it back. Ironically, he and his gang have better luck without it, racking up huge scores each time they try to trap the billionaire into giving up the ring.

ONE MORE XMAS PACKAGE?: While the move of “Titanic” is the most significant addition to the holiday film schedule, Fox execs have seen most of Warren Beatty’s untitled new film and are trying to get him to finish it in time to join the year-end fray. The film’s been shrouded in secrecy, but sources said Beatty plays a disillusioned U.S. senator who puts a hit on himself but changes his mind when he falls in love with a woman from South Central L.A. (played by Halle Berry). Paul Sorvino, Oliver Platt and Don Cheadle also star in the film. Fox originally planned a February release, but the studio hopes to move the pic up two months.

WILL JOURNEY END IN HOLLYWOOD?: While the publishing biz has been sluggish, producer/manager Jonathan Pillot of Link Entertainment and lit agent Jimmy Vines of the Vines Agency got $600,000 from Bantam prexy and publisher Irwyn Applebaum for “Sojourner: The Roads of the Earth,” and the dealmakers are targeting Hollywood next. It’s the memoir of Argentinian Emilio Scotto, who got himself into the Guinness Book of Records for hitting every country in the world while riding his motorcycle, a task that took him a decade to complete.

The co-writer will be Matthew Scott Hansen, who co-wrote “Pest Control,” which Warner Bros. bought last year. Vines is now selling screen rights, with Pillot and Ramy El-Batrawi producing. Applebaum said most adventure travelogues pale in comparison to that of Scotto.

“For literary lardasses like myself, it’s hard to imagine anyone putting themself through one leg of this trip, let alone the totality of 10 years,” Applebaum said. “He had good fortune and bad fortune, got thrown in prison, robbed, and in the next town could be put up at five star hotels because of who he hooked up with.”

Perhaps his most harrowing adventure came when he carried his bike through a practically impenetrable jungle, on the other side of which were natives. He quickly decided it would not be prudent to stay for dinner. They were cannibals, and he would have been the main course.

DISHINGS: The Morgan J. Freeman-directed “Hurricane,” which won the Audience Prize and Dramatic Directing Award at Sundance and was picked up for distribution by United Artists, has been retitled “Hurricane Streets” and will be distribbed by MGM … Tim Guinee will star with James Woods as vampire hunters in “John Carpenter’s Vampires” for Largo, which proves his versatility since he just played a vampire in New Line’s “Blade,” with Wesley Snipes. He’s repped by Gersh’s Larry Taube and managed by Lighthouse Ent. … Mykelti Williamson, who’ll soon be seen in “Con Air” and who just landed a starring role in the “Species” sequel, will play a small role for Mike Nichols in “Primary Colors.” He’s repped by William Morris’ Samantha Crisp and managed by Addis/Wechsler’s Eli Selden and Tammy Rosen … Though the 1997 MTV Movie Awards won’t be awarded until the Mike Myers-hosted live telecast on June 12, Dish can reveal one winner: Doug Liman, who has been named Best New Filmmaker for “Swingers.” While most MTV hardware is viewer-tabulated, Liman’s award was bestowed by students from such film school programs as USC, NYU and Northwestern.

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