Ross, Brandy go ‘Platinum’; ‘VIP’ list grows

In the latest powerhouse casting combo for a network sweeps event, Diana Ross and Brandy will play mother and daughter in “Double Platinum,” a telepic that begins shooting Dec. 1 in Manhattan as a May sweeps entry for ABC. The film will be executive produced by Storyline Entertainment partners Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, and Ross. The film is produced by Brandy and Sonja Norwood’s Norwood Ent. Group.

The network, Storyline and Brandy previously teamed on “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” the musical with Whitney Houston that got five Emmy noms and ABC’s best sweeps movie ratings in years. Unlike the glass slipper saga, “Double Platinum” doesn’t call for Ross and Brandy toburst into song, but it will feature at least six contemporary tunes sung by the pair. The film is an original drama about a woman who abandons her newborn daughter, fearing the child will impede her dreams of stardom. When the girl turns 18, the mother, by this time a singing legend, feels it’s time to reveal her identity and help her daughter’s own singing career. Problems arise when their secret relationship becomes public.

The film will be directed by Robert Allan Ackerman (“David’s Mother”), from a screenplay by Nina Shengold and Katie Ford with a rewrite imminent from Renee Longstreet. The film was put together by Columbia/TriStar exec veep of movies and miniseries Helen Verno and Susan Lyne, exec veep of movies and miniseries for ABC, along with ABC veep Quinn Taylor. Brandy, who stars in the UPN series “Moesha,” makes her feature debut next month in “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer,” and her new album, “Never Say Never,” has reached multiple platinum for Atlantic.

The film marks a rare screen effort for Ross, who has been recording an album for Motown and touring. Ross and Brandy were both repped by ICM.

MIDDLE FORKS SNAGS ‘SAVAGES’: Middle Fork Prods. chairman Verna Harrah has completed a deal to turn Joe Kane’s critically acclaimed book “Savages” into a feature. Based on a series of New Yorker articles, the story follows Kane’s adventures after he befriended a small band of Amazonian warriors who defended their territory against oil companies, missionaries and environmentalists. Harrah has already set Dan Gordon, whose credits include “Wyatt Earp” and “Passenger 57,” to adapt the film. She’ll produce with Susan Ruskin, Middle Fork’s president of production.

MANAGING A MOVE?: While rumors of imminent layoffs at talent agencies persist in Hollywood, it’s a different story in the management business, which is going through a boom time. Though all eyes focus on the pending Industry Entertainment defection of Rick and Julie Yorn and their stellar client list for a likely linkup with Mike Ovitz, another manager with a strong list is also in play. Marc Epstein, who counts Rupert Everett, Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill in his clientele, has been courted by all the major management concerns, which began when his InHouse Ent. partner Brian Swardstrom exited to return to agenting as a partner in Endeavor.

Dish hears Epstein’s gotten several equity offers, which CAA’s Kevin Huvane and attorney Steve Warren are sorting through. Epstein denied he’d made a decision whether to link up or remain independent. “The attention was unexpected and flattering, but I’m still trying to decide what will be best both for me and my clients,” Epstein said.

WWII WALK: Betting on sustained interest in battlefield films following the success of “Saving Private Ryan” and others to come, producers Steve Rubin and Dana Walker have made a deal for remake rights to the WWII combat film “A Walk in the Sun.” The deal was made with Nathan Sassover, CEO of the Parasol Group, which held the rights in its library. Rubin, who unearthed remake rights to “Combat!,” said he and Walker will shop the pic to studios as a movie that can be made for less than $10 million.

“The original was a classic, and there’s enormous international interest in the genre thanks to ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ ” Rubin said. The original, based on the Harry Brown novel about his experiences as a war correspondent, was released by Fox in 1946, the last combat film shot during WWII.

PAM POSING BECOMING HIP: J.F. Lawton, the “Pretty Woman” screenwriter who co-created the syndie series “VIP” with Pamela Anderson, has gone from begging stars to wait-listing them for the show’s high-action scenes featuring celebs who play themselves being bodyguarded by the curvaceous star. Jay Leno took part in a “Tonight Show” bomb scare episode, Bill Maher emerged from Anderson’s bathtub as she fended off killers, and Charles Barkley just wrapped a scene in which he’s shielded from terrorists by a machine gun-toting Anderson.

Marie Osmond, Jerry Springer, Coolio and Pauly Shore also did scenes, with Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal the likely next participants as the ratings build and word spreads. “It was difficult at first to get people because they didn’t know if the show would be considered cool, so we called in favors,” said Lawton. “I called Bill Maher and asked if he’d do me a favor and take a bath with Pam. He said yes right away.”

DISHINGS: As Dish reported Tuesday, screen rights will finally be sold for the Kay Thompson kiddie classic “Eloise at the Plaza.” But there’s more to the story. Simon & Schuster and Thompson’s estate will shortly secure a co-agent to hold an auction in January. There has been so much interest from producers and stars that it’s evoking memories of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which ICM brokered in a megabuck deal to Imagine and Universal for a Ron Howard/Jim Carrey pic.

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