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Wolfe gives Winkler a shot

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NEW YORK — In a surprise development, Tom Wolfe has given his 900-page manuscript “A Man in Full” to Irwin Winkler, who produced Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff” for the bigscreen and has a 30-year relationship with the author.

In what could provide a quick ending to the most eagerly awaited screen rights submission of the year, Wolfe has given Winkler and Columbia Pictures until the end of business today to make a preemptive offer that could take the novel off the table before other salivating buyers even get the chance to eyeball it.

Most studios and top producers who were eagerly tracking the book expected Wolfe’s agents — CAA’s Robert Bookman and Lynn Nesbit of Janklow-Nesbit — to give the book early this week to a limited group of A-list directors aligned with major producers and studios.

Known commodity

But sources said that Wolfe instead decided to go the loyalty route, giving the manuscript to Winkler just as he was preparing to board a plane en route to Europe.

Reached Friday, Winkler confirmed he’d received the book. While the strength of his relationship with Wolfe was forged with “The Right Stuff,” Winkler said he has known the author since the start of his own career, well before he won a producing Oscar for “Rocky” in 1976.

Old friends

Winkler’s relationship with Wolfe began in 1966 when Winkler optioned Wolfe’s short story “The Girl of the Year” and had Wolfe turn his story about Baby Jane Holzer into a script that never got made. The 1983 Philip Kaufman-directed film “The Right Stuff,” which Winkler produced with Robert Chartoff, was not a commercial success even though it drew critical acclaim and earned an Oscar nomination for best picture.

Sources in the scouting community were stunned by the Wolfe development. While giving Wolfe points for loyalty, they speculated that the single submission strategy could weaken his bargaining position in the event that Sony doesn’t aggressively bid on what is expected to be the literary event of the fall when it is published by Farrar Straus Giroux.

High price

If Winkler and the brass at Sony Pictures Entertainment do spark to Wolfe’s tale about an Atlanta-based real estate developer, the price will certainly be above the rumored $1 million that producers Peter Guber and Jon Peters paid for Wolfe’s last novel, “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” which came after the producers read a rave review of the novel in the New York Times.

It is perhaps not that surprising Wolfe would seek some security by placing the book with a producer he trusts, after “Bonfire,” the author’s critically lauded social satire, was a star-studded disappointment on the bigscreen.

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