Stallone and U: the $20 mil question

Stallone and U: the $20 mil question

SLY MOVES: As Universal moves closer to greenlighting a film starring Sylvester Stallone, Hollywood is pondering a $20 million question.

The Lili Zanuck-directed Imagine film “Into Thin Air” has been on the fast track for the actor, but there are rumors that another drama, possibly the Tom Cruise-produced, Zak Penn-penned serial killer tale “Suspect Zero,” could take precedence.

But industryites are wondering if Universal will live up to terms of a $60 million three-picture deal made in 1995 — which would allow a bloodied Stallone to yell “Yo, Adrian, I did it!” and give the thesp a “Rocky”-esque financial KO.

As is the case in some prizefights and most megastar salary deals, it’s hard to get a unanimous decision. Several reliable sources said Stallone indeed will reach the salary pinnacle, while others at the studio level are saying “Not so fast.”

A greenlight for the Imagine drama, about the Witness Protection Program, awaits script approvals by Stallone and Imagine’s Brian Grazer, and could start in April.

Stallone was expected to be a charter member of the $20 million group when he signed the first such deal with now-defunct Savoy Pictures. That movie never materialized, and despite the splashy headlines of the Universal deal, Stallone’s best payday there has been the $17.5 million for “Daylight,” a film that was a domestic disappointment but made a profit from its strong foreign grosses.

Jim Carrey, not Stallone, made the first confirmed $20 million studio payday on Columbia’s “The Cable Guy,” which instantly established that amount as the salary level for Carrey’s peers. That $20 mil club now consists of Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Travolta, Robin Williams and Bruce Willis.

Knocking on the door are Nicolas Cage (who could gain entry with his next deal, Columbia’s “8 Millimeter”), Will Smith, Brad Pitt and Eddie Murphy (who got $17.5 million for “Dr. Dolittle” after breaking a string of flops with the Imagine smash “The Nutty Professor”).

Many say the $20 million club is a mirage: Salaries are really advances against gross and don’t include multimillion-dollar perk packages that can reach $3 million. There are rumors aplenty that stars like Schwarzenegger and Gibson have reached $25 million, even though studio heads strenuously deny it.

Stallone, trying to rebound after other disappointing films “Judge Dredd” and “Assassins,” scored his best reviews since “Rocky” in Miramax’s “Cop Land.” But he worked for scale, and has turned down several offers in the $12 million range before zeroing in on a U pic.

His CAA reps Richard Lovett and Bryan Lourd have lobbied hard to get U to pay the big salary, as has Stallone’s new manager Brad Grey, who has some clout at Universal after selling MCA 50% of Brillstein-Grey’s TV business.

BACK TO “T2” TERRITORY: After making a memorable debut as the villainous morphing cyborg in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” Robert Patrick is returning to that horror/sci-fi territory in both films and TV.

He’s near a deal to take the lead role in Dimension’s “Texas Blood Money,” the sequel to Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s “From Dusk Till Dawn.” Patrick will play a bank robber who takes a gang of thieves across the border to Mexico to liberate cash from a bank, only to find one of his compatriots would rather crack a blood bank, since he’s a plasma-thirsty vampire.

The film, being directed by Tarantino protege Scott Spiegel, will start in January. It’s Patrick’s second major effort for Miramax, after “Cop Land.” At the same time, Patrick has signed to join Dean Cain starring in “Anne Rice’s Rag and Bone,” the Columbia/TriStar series pilot for CBS. Cain plays a cop in New Orleans and Patrick plays his partner — a ghost. Patrick’s repped by UTA, Hyler Management and Hansen Jacobson Teller & Hoberman.

MADSENS UNITE: Fresh from “Species 2,” Michael Madsen will star in “The Florentine,” the Nick Stagliano-directed film put together by Initial Entertainment Group and Francis Coppola’s American Zoetrope. For the first time, Madsen will act alongside his sister, Virginia Madsen — playing brother and sister.

He joins a cast that includes Tom Sizemore, Mary Stuart Masterson and James Belushi. At the same time, Madsen’s making his move as a writer, on two fronts. After he starred in the Dayton Callie-scripted “Frankie the Fly,” he and Callie co-scripted a biopic of 1930s bank robber Pretty Boy Floyd. Madsen will play the title character. Madsen and Callie have raised most of the money, and will name a director and crew up shortly. The movie tough guy has also completed a work of poetry, “Burning in Paradise,” to be published in March by Incommunicado Press. If you’re wondering whether Madsen, who turned in a most convincing performance as a cop-torturing maniac in “Reservoir Dogs,” has turned soft, forget it. His prose style, he says, is akin to the gritty poetry of Charles Bukowski, which decidedly is not the stuff of the wine and cheese circuit. Sample “Zippo,” his ode to a lighter:

“I pour another shot of vodka/and see my reflection on the back of a silver Zippo/Like a mirror in an amusement park, a little crooked, a little strange/Never underestimate the value of a Zippo.”

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