HBO, Crowe in ‘Marriage’

Helmer's Vinyl Films turning hot article into skein

NEW YORK — After a season of “Sex in the City,” HBO will now be exposing sex in the suburbs.

The pay cabler is in final negotiations to purchase the rights to John H. Richardson’s “Scenes from a (Group) Marriage” on behalf of director Cameron Crowe’s Vinyl Films.

“Marriage,” an article about polyamorous New Jersey couples that appears in this month’s Esquire, has been a hot property since it hit newsstands several weeks ago.

The article is said to have attracted feature interest from Danny DeVito’s Jersey Films and Michael Douglas’ Furthur Films.

Crowe’s Vinyl Films was the only production shingle that envisioned the article, a compilation of episodes detailing the excitement and chaos that results when two suburban couples decide to swap partners, as a potential TV show. They took it to Chris Albrecht, HBO president of original programming.

Albrecht read the article and immediately made an offer to CAA, which reps both Richardson and Crowe.

While the details still are being worked out, Richardson’s deal would have him receiving money upfront for the option, and additional fees for writing the pilot and if the series gets picked up. He could be earning somewhere in the mid-six figures.

Richardson’s deal is contingent on HBO’s deal with Vinyl Films, which is being hammered out.

The projected series, which Crowe likely would exec produce, would be the “Jerry Maguire” helmer’s first foray into TV. He had been approached about potential television projects ever since the success of “Maguire,” and has been looking for a series to develop for the past year.

The likely half-hour single-camera comedy-drama series would contain the kind of adult content that has made hits of the cablecaster’s recent series “The Sopranos” and “Sex in the City.”

Richardson, who has written for Premiere and New York magazines and was a film reporter for the Los Angeles Daily News, likely would share a “created by” credit with Crowe.

“My Father the Spy,” an article that Richardson wrote for the March issue of Esquire, also has generated keen interest around Hollywood production shingles. The piece is a memoir detailing the last days of the author’s father, a former CIA operative.

According to sources within Paramount, the studio is finalizing an offer to purchase the rights to “My Father” on behalf of “Donnie Brasco” screenwriter Paul Attanasio.

Three years ago, Stephen Elliott at Hit & Run Production optioned Richardson’s 1991 Premiere magazine article on the murder of B-movie actress Susan Cabot; Richardson also wrote the screenplay.

Reps for Vinyl Films and HBO declined comment.

(John Dempsey contributed to this report.)

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