Pitt joins ‘Madness’; faux Oldman exposed

Brad Pitt is negotiating to star in “Laws of Madness,” a Chris Gerolmo-scripted and directed adaptation of a Michael Laudor book. It tells the true story of a 24-year-old law student whose career dreams were jeopardized when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He overcame the affliction, with the help of his father.

The project, which will be produced by Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer, has been a high priority for Universal and Imagine since it was purchased in partial manuscript form in early 1996 for $1.5 million. It was eyed as a directing vehicle for Grazer’s partner, Ron Howard. Howard has moved along to “Ed TV,” and Gerolmo stepped up to direct it after turning in a strong draft.

Pitt, who once wanted to star for director Joel Schumacher in “The Crowded Room,” the true story of a man with multiple personalities, has long been interested in playing a mentally challenged protagonist. When he got the script, he sparked to it immediately.

Already booked to star with Edward Norton and possibly Courtney Love in Fox 2000’s “The Fight Club,” Pitt is hoping to make “Madness” his fall project, sources said. That is contingent on U, Imagine and Pitt’s reps working out his salary, a discussion that is ongoing. Pitt’s repped by CAA’s Bryan Lourd and Brillstein-Grey’s Cynthia Pett.

AN OLDMAN AND A CONMAN: During the latter part of his standup comic career, Andy Kaufman challenged audiences with such creations as the confrontational and grating lounge singer Tony Clifton, whom Kaufman claimed wasn’t him. In a performance right out of the Kaufman repertoire, an impostor pretending to be actor Gary Oldman submitted a filmed audition for the starring role in Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon,” and was considered along with tests by Jim Carrey, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Kevin Spacey and Hank Azaria.

While Kaufman might well be chuckling from beyond, parties involved in the film aren’t sure if they should be in stitches or in fear of the impostor. Danny DeVito’s Jersey Films wouldn’t comment, and is keeping the bogus Oldman’s identity under wraps. But the man gets high marks for being industrious in a deception that began last August, when he phoned DeVito to express interest in the Kaufman pic and request a script when it was ready.

“We got a call from Danny asking to confirm Gary’s London phone number,” said Oldman’s manager, Douglas Urbanski. “I said Gary didn’t call Danny, and he doesn’t live in London. I forgot about it after that.”

Still, the phony Oldman continued his quest, his credibility bolstered by simply telling DeVito, director Milos Forman and “Moon” casting director Francine Maisler that he should be contacted directly because he was firing his agents at CAA.

“When someone like Gary calls Milos directly, and I guess he got Milos’ number through his agency by saying he was Gary, you tend to believe him,” said Maisler. “Milos asked me to call Gary in London and I began having ongoing conversations with the man known as Gary Oldman.”

Urbanski said the bloom came off the ruse when Dish disclosed that Oldman had tested, when in fact Oldman, like Nicolas Cage, rejected the idea of auditioning on principle. Oldman, who’s still repped by CAA, solved the mystery during a chance meeting with “Moon” co-writer Larry Karaszewski while their kids were playing together.

“Gary Oldman, the real one, calls me at home last Friday and said, ‘Boy do I have a strange story to tell you,’ ” Urbanski said. “The writer kept talking about Gary’s screen test and Gary finally said, ‘I didn’t do a screen test.’ Then, they realized there was an-other guy pretending to be Gary. Apparently, the tape is not very good, but Gary would love to see it.”

Maisler wouldn’t evaluate the impostor’s performance, but said that even after being exposed as a phony, the new Oldman called trying to get a small part in the film. “I kind of feel bad for him,” said Maisler. “He expressed passion for the project, and said he was an actor looking for work and that’s why he did this. My heart kind of went out for him.”

“I heard that half an hour into the tape, the guy says I’m not Gary Oldman, I’m Mark something or other,” Urbanski said. “But it’s a lot like Kaufman, who gave these excruciating performances until you’d go, ‘Oh, I get it, he’s trying to be terrible.’ So even when he revealed his secret, they think it’s a brilliant innovation by Gary Oldman, pulling an Andy Kaufman on them.’ ”

For Oldman, the laugh track apparently ended Monday. October Films exec Randy Ostrow called to confirm that Oldman was indeed interested in starring in a movie called “Go,” with October ready to send a script to the same London address given for “Man on the Moon.” Oldman has placed the matter in the hands of his attorneys, and Urbanski admonished producers and studios to be more careful: “This kind of thing shouldn’t get so far.”

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