Contrary to popular Hollywood myth, Charlie Kaufman’s first produced script never was called “Being James Woods,” “Being Tom Cruise” or, for that matter, “Being Julia Roberts.”

“The screenplay was always ‘Being John Malkovich,’ even before I had any expectation that John Malkovich would even read the script,” Kaufman says.

“It was surprising that he agreed to do it.”

“Shocking” would be more like it. What other star would tweak his image so drastically as Malkovich has here? In the Kaufman-scripted, Spike Jonze-directed film, Catherine Keener and John Cusack find an office portal that leads them inside John Malkovich. Literally. In a get-rich scheme, the duo sells tickets to those craving such an out-of-their-own-body experience, much to the thesp’s dismay.

Last June, MPRM created tremendous buzz for the film when the publicity firm screened a rough cut that hit all the right media buttons on both coasts. “Being John Malkovich” now has an October release.

A graduate of the NYU film school, Kaufman wrote his script several years ago. “It had been floating around,” he says, until Jonze read it and took the project to Propaganda, which promptly agreed to produce.

“I’d written several TV pilots, and got some attention,” Kaufman says. “The feeling was my stuff was too odd.”

Certain movie execs couldn’t agree less. Last year, Kaufman and Michel Gondry sold an untitled pitch to Propaganda, about a film set inside a man’s memory. Next up for Kaufman, who lives in Pasadena and is repped by UTA, is his script “Human Nature,” about a bizarre love triangle. Good Machine will produce with Jonze and Kaufman, with Gondry helming.

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