Start spreading ‘News’: Spacey picks next role

Hallstrom to direct, Bass and Epperson to pen

Sizzling hot off winning the Oscar for his turn in “American Beauty,” Kevin Spacey has committed to star in “The Shipping News,” a film to be helmed by Oscar-nominated director Lasse Hallstrom (“The Cider House Rules”). Pic Will be produced by Irwin Winkler, Rob Cowen and Linda Goldstein. Leslie Halloran will co-produce.

Columbia had been courting Spacey for the role all month (Daily Variety, March 14). This is the first film the actor has committed to since winning the Oscar. (He is shooting “Pay It Forward” at Warner Bros. opposite Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment).

Pic is a Columbia Pictures and Miramax Films co-production based on the 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Annie Proulx.

Oscar lineage

With Hallstrom helming, Oscar-winning scribe Ron Bass (“Rain Man”) and Tom Epperson the screenwriters, Oscar-winner Winkler (“Rocky”) the producer, and now Spacey, the project has “Oscar” written all over it.

Production is slated to begin early next year, with Columbia execs Amy Baer and Andrea Giannetti overseeing the project along with Miramax’s co-prexy of production Meryl Poster.

“Shipping” centers on a newspaperman who survives an awful marriage to a woman who runs off with his two daughters and sells them into prostitution. The man saves the girls, moves with them to Newfoundland and takes a job writing the shipping news, while slowly discovering his own identity and some dark family secrets.

Columbia and Miramax are also partners on another high-profile book adaptation — Cormac McCarthy’s “All the Pretty Horses.”

John Travolta, once set to star in “Shipping News” with his wife Kelly Preston, dropped out in June. Billy Bob Thornton had also been in talks to star in and direct the pic.

In April, Hallstrom will begin production on Miramax Films’ “Chocolat” starring Johnny Depp, Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Lena Olin.

‘Kahuna’ coming

Spacey will next be seen with Danny DeVito in “The Big Kahuna,” which he produced through his Trigger Street Prods. Pic is due in theaters from Lions Gate in late April.

Spacey’s deal was negotiated by the William Morris Agency, manager Joanne Horowitz and attorney Doug Stone at Stone, Meyer & Geno.

Deal was negotiated on behalf of Columbia by Brian Lee and on Miramax’s behalf by Bob Osher.

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