Playboy in vogue again

Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment toppers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have struck a deal to produce a biopic about Playboy creator Hugh Hefner.

Grazer, who spent the last four months trying to secure the life rights of the one-man sexual revolution, will produce the pic, with Hefner consulting throughout the project’s development. Now Grazer is after a writer to capture Hefner’s personal life and legendary position at Playboy Enterprises.

Hefner rose from his strict, middle class, Midwestern upbringing, to set up Playboy in 1954 with just an $8,000 investment. The magazine’s enormous success has assured his place in history as a totem to the sexual revolution and free speech.

“My life has been a ball, and it has had its real conflicts along the way,” Hefner told Daily Variety. “One of the things that has been agreed upon, when we finalized things with Brian and Universal the other day, was that it should be true to the character. The only uncertainty is how much of the time it will span.

“I think that the key to all of it is finding the defining moments: the launch of the magazine; my pursuit of idealized romantic love; and that (by) creating the magazine, my life changed … and the conflict that produced.”

With martinis and red meat back on people’s plates, the Rat Pack on radios, “Austin Powers” burning up the box office and James Bond due back in theaters, a Hefner biopic seems in sync with the retro-crazy times.

Moreover, the magazine’s founder has never been more popular. Hefner has been a regular at recent major events from Cannes to the Oscars, usually with three or more buxom beauties in tow. He has also been active hosting premiere parties and events at his famed Playboy mansion.

So cool

“He’s cool again,” said Grazer. “His lifestyle and how he handles his life is very upfront, and not excessive in a way that is hurting anyone — he’s not a gangster who’s hurting anyone.

“He’s known as a playboy but he’s also a fantastically clear and brilliant guy, with a very aggressive mind who is well-versed in publishing and the Constitution.”

Grazer added that he was intrigued by another aspect of Hefner’s life: “This guy made love with the most beautiful women in the world, and thousands of them, and he’s managed to stay friendly with them. He’s kept things cool with people. What guy do you know who can do that?”

Over the years, several celebs have asked Hefner about filming his life story and the activities at the Playboy mansion. In the early 1960s, actor Tony Curtis approached Hefner about a biopic, which was developed for a time with then up-and-comers Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear. Hefner said they weren’t able to nail down the screenplay before everyone moved on to other projects.

And in early 1996, producer David Wolper tried to mount a six-hour miniseries for CBS but it never came to fruition.

Hefner told Daily Variety that he sold the rights to his tale because “the time seems right. The magazine is a hot property and I am much in the media.”

Hefner said he went with Imagine for the film because Grazer “can bring it the kind of expertise and connection to the marketplace and make it contemporary.”

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