Scotts scrape on repo pic; Wolfe tome up for bids

SCOTT SIBLING RIVALRY: Polygram-based Scott Free has made a deal to draft a movie around an unnamed but highly decorated Navy pilot who became a highly paid repo man who goes after custom-made jet planes. Donald Stewart, who won an Oscar co-writing “Missing” and co-wrote “Clear and Present Danger,” “Patriot Games” and “The Hunt for Red October,” will write the script. Either Tony or Ridley Scott will direct, and there’s potential for conflict when the film reaches the runway, because both want to pilot the picture.

“It might be a helluva fight to see who gets to direct this one,” said Tony Scott from an editing room where he’s completing the Will Smith starrer “Enemy of the State” for Touchstone and Jerry Bruckheimer.

“They are as close as two brothers can be, but before this is over, there may be a fist fight,” said Scott Free president Chris Zarpas, who will produce with Bill MacDonald and the Scotts. MacDonald, whose credits include “Sliver,” is a pilot who met the film’s subject on the aviation circuit.

Ridley Scott, who’s prepping “Gladiator” for a November shoot at DreamWorks, said he and his brother will toss a coin, the first time it’s happened since they began their careers, and Tony won the right to direct the Henry James piece “Author of Bel Traffio.” “He won that and it ruined my whole summer,” said Ridley, though Tony recalled the film turned out to be “as boring as hell.”

There’s little boring about the pilot, whose rights the Scott Brothers have acquired (Daily Variety, Feb. 24, 1997). They won’t divulge his name, somewhat understandable since the dozens of jets he’s repossessed in countries around the world includes the per-sonal King Air 300 used by the much-feared Medellin Cartel leader Pablo Escobar.

What is known is that the pilot went from playing one season alongside Joe Namath on the New York Jets to flying jets in hundreds of Vietnam combat missions. He became a Navy Top Gun instructor before getting into the repo business. He’s hired to go into often lawless Third World countries where dictators and others stop paying for their multimillion-dollar toys, leaving insurance or leasing companies out huge sums of money with little legal recourse.

Salvage men get big bucks to sneak the planes back. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of using an extra set of keys to exit a runway, but on a recent job the film’s subject turned down, two South African repo men were killed when they tried to reclaim a Falcon 50 in Rwanda and were brought down by a heat-seeking missile.

“A lot of films come along that are action-driven pieces, but combining that with a real character who literally does this for a living is rare,” Ridley Scott said. “It’s much safer ground when you (make a film based) on people who really exist. And when you get into the research, fact is far more interesting than fiction.”

Ridley’s brother Tony sparked to the cost of leading an Indiana Jones-like lifestyle. “It breaks up families, because they are constantly in danger, and this guy essentially sits by a phone in a hotel or on a golf course, waiting for the next assignment. It’s an exciting, highly visual world that has never been explored in a film.”

Zarpas, who put the package together with MacDonald, said Stewart will create a fictitious adventure based on the pilot’s exploits that will be a cross between “The French Connection” and “The Year of Living Dangerously.”

“The guy is like Popeye Doyle, who does what’s necessary to get the job done, and something happens where he loses his objectivity and complicates his life,” said Zarpas from the Montreal set of “Where the Money Is,” starring Paul Newman, Linda Fiorentino and Dermot Mulroney.

Stewart said the pilot’s motivation was what most intrigued him. “It’s not the money he makes, it’s the rush he gets doing these daredevil acts. That’s what’s important to him,” Stewart said. They hope to go out to such A-list stars as Harrison Ford, John Travolta and Tom Cruise, who are avid aviation fans and have let it be known they’d like to make films involving airplanes.

WOLFE CRY ANSWERED: “A Man in Full,” the Tom Wolfe novel that is one of the more eagerly anticipated books among film rights buyers of the past two years, will finally be introduced into the marketplace next week by CAA’s Robert Bookman, who’s co-agenting with Lynn Nesbit of Janklow-Nesbit.

Dish hears that the novel, to be published by Farrar Straus Giroux, clocks in at about 900 unbound galley pages, and a rough edit has been completed. Studios and major producers have been attempting to get cozy with Wolfe, his agents and editor Jonathan Galassi, but a preempt seems unlikely and a full scale bidding battle seems imminent for Wolfe’s tale of an Atlanta-based real estate developer.

What’s remarkable is that, save for a Rolling Stone excerpt which gave buyers a taste, Galassi, Nesbit and Bookman have kept the manuscript from being leaked.

DISHINGS: A recent column about Imagine’s “Golden Gate,” a romantic drama being developed by director Ron Howard to star Bill Paxton omitted screenwriter Will Richter. He’s co-writing with Audrey Wells.

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