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U takes pitch for remake of ‘Endless Love’

UNIVERSAL HAS PAID a high six-figure sum for Lamar Damon’s pitch for “The Age of Consent,” an adaptation of the Scott Spencer novel “Endless Love” which Universal turned into a Brooke Shields-starrer in 1981.

The film will be scripted by Damon and produced by former U marketing toppers Buffy Shutt and Kathy Jones. Why would the studio want to revisit subject matter that it explored in a pic which, despite hatching the Lionel Richie/Diana Ross duet and marking Tom Cruise’s screen debut, is remembered as such a lousy movie that film critic Leonard Maltin deemed it a “textbook example of how to do everything wrong in a literary adaptation, rightfully regarded as one of the worst films of its time”?

U figured the original had departed far enough from the critically acclaimed novel that there was still untapped source material for a youth-driven movie whose rights U already owned. U chairman Stacey Snider and execs Allie Brecker and Jennifer Fox remembered the novel, and Damon’s pitch swayed them. Once Damon promised to retitle it to distance the pic from “Endless Love,” the studio bought the pitch.

The book’s much darker and edgier than the film, concerning a 17-year old guy and a 15-year old girl who have a torrid romance that her parents try to stifle. The guy, trying to ingratiate himself with the family, sets their house afire with the intention of extinguishing the blaze and saving them. The house burns to the ground, the boy’s put in a mental hospital as an arsonist, and two families are destroyed. In the book, his obsession continues as she tries to get past him. He practically becomes a stalker over the next 10 years.

Damon’s recent efforts have targeted the teen set, but have been much lighter in tone. They include the Screen Gems pic “Chiclets,” the DreamWorks comedy “Slap Her, She’s French,” and an MTV pilot called “Friends and Losers.” He’s repped by Paradigm’s Valerie Phillips, managed by Handprint’s Danielle Thomas and his lawyer is Warren Dern.

MIRAMAX GRABS BRAWLER: Miramax is well along in talks to take the Depression-era fisticuff film “Cinderella Man” from Universal in a turnaround deal, and Dish hears that Miramax staples Ben Affleck and director Billy Bob Thornton are possibles for the fight card. The film, scripted by Charlie Mitchell, is the true story about a regular guy who enters the ring out of desperation to feed his family. He becomes a hero of the commonfolk as he battles his way up the ranks. Miramax sources said that there are no talent attachments, but Dish hears that Thornton is interested in directing, Affleck in starring. Thornton’s participation is the key. He completed directing Matt Damon in “All the Pretty Horses,” and his plan to follow with “The Shipping News” has been pushed back. He’s got a couple acting offers, but might direct “Cinderella Man.” Both he and Affleck have strong ties to Miramax, where Affleck’s starring with Gwyneth Paltrow in “Bounce.”

BLUES TALE: Veteran record producer Spencer Proffer, who produced the CBS mini “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and got top music talent to record songs for the soundtrack, is going the same route with the Tony-nommed Broadway musical “It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues,” which recently opened at the Geffen Playhouse.

Proffer was brought in as a producer of the musical earlier in the year by lead producer Eric Krebs, and recorded three perfs for the soundtrack before the show left Lincoln Center. Then he began touring the country and getting blues giants to supplement the numbers in a show about the evolution of blues. He’s so far recorded B.B. King doing “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and has gotten tracks from guitarist Jonny Lang, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, and got Andrae Crouch and his Choir to bolster a gospel number. A CD will also include narrative from Whoopi Goldberg and Taj Mahal, and when the show goes on tour around the country, the producers are talking with the likes of King to make guest appearances. The album will be released through Proffer’s Morling Manor Media and MCA, with MCA’s Randy Jackson exec producing. Proffer’s now producing one of MTV’s first originals for the network, “Jailbait,” and is rounding up musical talent to take part in that one as well.

PLATINUM FOR DREAMWORKS: Hollywood’s infatuation with underground comics for movie ideas continues. DreamWorks has paid mid-six figures for the screen rights to Nathan Never, a comic published in Italy by Bonelli Editore and imported by Platinum Studios. The storyline: Nathan Never’s a 21st Century Dirty Harry who, in the wake of a vicious crime, is charged to protect the lone witness. He’s an eccentric character named Luther, who’s more than he appears to be. They form an unusual “48 Hours” type bond. The comic was acquired by DW’s Walter Parkes and Glenn Williamson, and will be scripted by Walt Becker, who is making his directorial debut on “Buying the Cow,” the comedy he wrote for Destination. He also wrote the best-selling book “Link.” The film’s being produced by Platinum chairman Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, co-produced by Platinum prexy Ervin Rustemagic and senior veep Gregory Noveck. The comic was created by the Italy-based trio Michele Medda, Antonio Serra and Bepi Vigna, who’ve sold more than 25 million Nathan Never comics since creating the character in 1991. It’s Platinum’s second big DreamWorks deal after “Cowboys & Aliens.” They’ve also got “Million Dollar Heroes” at New Line and “Dead of Night” at Dimension with Breck Eisner directing. William Morris reps Platinum while Endeavor repped Becker.

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