Van Sant ropes gay cowboy pic

McMurtry, Ossana, Rudin to produce for Col

NEW YORK — Columbia Pictures has lassoed Gus Van Sant to direct “Brokeback Mountain,” a love story about two gay cowboys.

The film is from a script by Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lonesome Dove” novelist Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, his writing partner. Scott Rudin will produce with Van Sant, McMurtry and Ossana.

The unusual story was set up by Columbia production president Amy Pascal and was adapted from a story by another Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Annie L. Proulx (“The Shipping News”).

Proulx wrote the story in the Oct. 13, 1997, issue of the New Yorker, a work of fiction about two contemporary cowboys who fall madly in love, but also have families. Ultimately, each has to make a choice. McMurtry and Ossana read the New Yorker piece and quickly optioned it, the first time McMurtry has done such a thing with work originated by someone else. They wrote it on spec and took it to Van Sant.

Van Sant will saddle up and be in production by next summer, making it his next directorial effort after the remake of “Psycho” for Imagine. Van Sant most recently directed “Good Will Hunting” and “To Die For.”

McMurtry won his Pulitzer for “Lonesome Dove” and also authored the novels “The Last Picture Show” and “Terms of Endearment.” With Ossana, he wrote the novels “Zeke and Ned” and “Pretty Boy Floyd.” They also scripted the adaptation of McMurtry’s “Dove” sequel “Streets of Laredo.”

William Morris’ John Burnham reps Van Sant and Brillstein-Grey’s Michael Siegel reps McMurtry and Ossana.

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