NEW YORK — As he nears a deal to make his film debut as a quarterback phenom in Oliver Stone’s gridiron drama “On Any Given Sunday” at Warner Bros., Sean “Puffy” Combs wants to be the signal caller on a big screen career that will include producing and starring in films and TV.
He has launched his own film shingle, Bad Boy Films, and set his first project at Dimension Films. Combs will star in an adaptation of the George Pelecanos novel “King Suckerman,” which he will produce with manager Benny Medina.
At age 27, Combs has gone from an internship at Andre Harrell’s Uptown Ent. to being the CEO of Bad Boy Entertainment, the top-selling label in urban/hip hop. Combs’s own album, “No Way Out,” has sold seven million albums. “I’ll Be Missing You,” Combs’s tribute to his slain pal Notorious B.I.G., went triple platinum and Combs has become a sought after record producer, steering recent efforts by Mariah Carey and Aretha Franklin. He’s just as ambitious about making his move into movies and TV production.
“I pride myself in being a visionary, and this is my chance to prove that vision on the big screen,” Combs said. “As opposed to working in a medium that you hear, I’ve always been intrigued with TV and film, presenting something you can see.”
“King Suckerman” is set in D.C. during the bicentennial celebration, and Combs will play a record store owner who unwittingly incurs the wrath of drug dealers when his pal crosses them. It’s described by Medina, Combs’s manager and the film’s coproducer, as a tale of morality and the unexpected consequences of standing by a friend. Combs brought the book to Dimension exec Peter Schwerin and president Cary Granat, and Miramax cochairman Bob Weinstein blessed a deal which calls for Combs to produce the soundtrack as well and leaves the door open for sequels — the character recurs in other novels by Pelecanos, who’s writing the script.
“I’m going to play roles that I can handle and that give me a chance to grow as an actor,” Combs said, “so that my second movie is better than my first, and the fifth is better than the third. Mine is not the major role here, and I’m hoping to surround myself with a cast of major actors I can learn from.”
Combs will make an immediate movie impact next month. He teamed up with ex-Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine to create “Come With Me,” the theme song of Sony’s “Godzilla.” Page reprises his classic guitar riffs from the Zeppelin song “Kashmir,” with Combs rapping fresh lyrics.
Though the “Suckerman” deal gives Miramax/Dimension’s Weinstein brothers inside track on a screen relationship with Combs, Medina said they currently have no overall deal and can either set up projects piecemeal or finance development themselves. “The long-term idea is to grow a TV and film operation that’s as revolutionary to those mediums as his record company has been to the recording industry,” Medina said.
Combs was repped by ICM’s Jason Barrett, Phil Casey and Andy Reif along with his attorney, Kenny Meiselas. Pelecanos was repped by ICM’s Alicia Gordon.
STARS TO HAUNT ‘PSYCHO?’: Imagine’s Brian Grazer and director Gus Van Sant have a summer start for their Universal remake of the Hitchcock masterpiece “Psycho,” and Dish hears they’ve made offers to what would be a star-studded cast. Vince Vaughn has been asked to play the ultimate mama’s boy, Norman Bates, the role originated by Anthony Perkins. Nicole Kidman is mulling the prospect of playing the Janet Leigh role, although she’s said to have scheduling problems. “Boogie Nights” Oscar nominee Julianne Moore has the offer to play Kidman’s sister, who prods an investigation of sis’s disappearance, with “Fargo” star William Macy offered the role of the police investigator who helps uncover the truth about Norman. All parties are tentative.
JONES PICKED FOR ‘PIKE’: Orlando Jones, who exited “Mad TV” after a standout debut season on the show, has landed a costarring role alongside Kelsey Grammer in Universal’s “New Jersey Turnpikes,” the feature directed by Brian Buckley, known for his ESPN promos. Though Jones has another feature being developed for him at MGM, the comic actor isn’t completely leaving TV behind. He’s got a deal to star in an ABC sitcom that’s being created by “Partners” creators Jeff Greenstein and Jeff Strauss. Jones is repped by William Morris’s Samantha Crisp and 3 Arts Ent.
PUFFN PIC?: Sid and Marty Krofft are looking for a big screen afterlife for their memorable kid programming creations. Several studios are chasing “H.R. Pufnstuf,” the show that starred Jack Wild as a youth who, with the help of Mayor Pufnstuf and the odd characters on living island, try to keep Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes) from stealing his talking flute. Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (“People vs. Larry Flynt”) have hatched the story and will produce, but won’t write the screenplay. Endeavor reps the scribes and ICM’s Richard Feldman is shopping the package as the rep for the Kroffts, who also have screen aspirations for “Land of the Lost,” which they just got back in turnaround from Disney, and the puppet-laden “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.”
DISHINGS: Fox 2000’s adaptation of Richard Preston’s germ warfare novel “The Cobra Event” got a rather strange promotional boost — a front page story in Sunday’s New York Times about how President Clinton ordered a simulated biological attack exercise after reading the novel and being so disturbed by its biological terrorism premise. Just as in Preston’s book, Clinton found the country is totally unprepared to handle such an attack.
The pic’s on a fast track, produced by Art Linson with a script being written by Don McPherson (“The Avengers”). “When I read the book, I thought it was scary, and I hoped someone would be prepared,” Linson said. “Obviously, President Clinton thought the same thing. If things get skittish for him, I’d welcome him as a producer.” …
Dish hears Paramount’s quietly putting together a new “Kentucky Fried Movie,” the 1977 parody of movies and commercials that hatched the careers of David and Jerry Zucker.