Apatow near Dream deal

Writer-producer could join exclusive company in $16 mil ballpark

DreamWorks is in final negotiations to bring Judd Apatow into the studio in a four-year, exclusive television and first-look film deal. The total value of the pact is in the neighborhood of $16 million, and Apatow will create and run sitcoms, and write, produce and direct features.

The pact with DreamWorks — which has a similar deal with Gary David Goldberg — puts Apatow in the pricey neighborhood inhabited by the likes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator Joss Whedon, who’s at Fox. Like Whedon, Apatow has a proven track record in both TV and features, giving DreamWorks a legitimate double threat and the chance to boost its presence in both episodic and screen comedies.

On the small screen, Apatow and Ben Stiller co-created “The Ben Stiller Show,” winning an Emmy for best writing on a variety show just after Fox canceled the series. Apatow then joined “The Larry Sanders Show,” and has been a writing and producing presence since the second season of the HBO sitcom. In the final season, he was co-executive producer and directed an episode. He’s been nominated for a total of five Emmy Awards and wrote a total of seven “Sanders” episodes while supervising many others. He was also a consulting producer on “The Critic.”

On the feature side, Apatow most recently came out of a deal at New Line where his latest effort was a rewrite of the hit comedy “The Wedding Singer.” He did the same for his buddy Stiller on “The Cable Guy,” which Apatow produced. Apatow also had a hand in writing and exec produced both “Celtic Pride” for Hollywood Pictures and “Heavyweights” for Caravan.

Apatow, who attended the USC Cinema School, began as a standup comic who appeared on the HBO Young Comedians special in 1992 and then began writing for comics like Garry Shandling when the latter hosted the Grammy Awards. Apatow, who opened for Jim Carrey during his road tours, co-produced “Jim Carrey’s Unnatural Act,” then wrote specials for both Roseanne and Tom Arnold before teaming with Stiller on the Fox show.

His DreamWorks deal begins with the film “Remember Sunday,” a pitch he set up last week as producer with “Rain Man” co-writer Barry Morrow. Sources said the studio is counting on his Santa Monica-based Apatow Prods. to import top comedy talent. Apatow is repped by UTA and managed by Jimmy Miller of the Gold-Miller Co.

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