In what marks his first television pact since exiting Disney, Joe Roth has closed a deal with ABC to adapt into a miniseries the upcoming novel “Gangster” by “Sleepers” author Lorenzo Carcaterra. The novel, to be published by Ballantine in February, is the sprawling tale of a brutal crime boss who takes in an orphan with the notion of grooming a protege and heir for his criminal empire.

The deal, said to be a sizable financial venture, marks the fourth book of Carcaterra’s that has been optioned for film or TV. “Apaches,” a fictional account of a renegade band of injured cops, is being developed by Jerry Bruckheimer at Disney, while Carcaterra’s first book, “A Safe Place,” is under option for an indie feature.

“Gangster” was sold on the basis of a first draft, and made the rounds at studios first as a possible feature. It contains themes somewhat similar to film epics like “The Godfather” and “Once Upon a Time in New York,” and sparked with several producers. But at 550 pages, “Gangster” seems ideal for lengthier miniseries treatment, as was done with Mario Puzo’s “The Last Don” and is being done with Tom Wolfe’s “A Man in Full” by Michael Douglas and NBC.

“I don’t normally work in this area, but after reading the first draft, I thought it was a big, sprawling tale that would be ideal for two nights of television,” said Roth. “We closed the deal, and now we’ll bring in a screenwriter.” Roth brought it to his former Disney colleague Susan Lyne, now exec veep of movies and miniseries for ABC. Carcaterra will take an exec producer credit, though he will not adapt the novel. Carcaterra was repped by William Morris’ Rob Carlson, manager Lou Pitt of the Pitt Group, and attorneys Jake Bloom and Robert Offer.

LUCAS CLOSE TO ANAKIN SELECTION: With George Lucas closing in on the start of his second installment of the “Star Wars” prequel, the buzz swirling around Hollywood Wednesday was that the force will be with Hayden Christensen, a young actor whom Lucas is close to naming to play Anakin Skywalker.

With the likes of Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor and Samuel L. Jackson ready to return, the big question was who would be chosen to play the mature Anakin, who learns the way of the force before turning to the dark side and becoming Darth Vader. Christensen’s credits include a role on the Fox Family Channel series “Higher Ground” and a supporting role in the recent telepic “Trapped in a Purple Haze.”

His appointment was shrouded in a purple haze, as his agents at Gersh did not return phone calls. The Lucas camp could not be reached for comment either.

LEAVING LEVIN, BUT NOT GOING FAR: Producer Lloyd Levin has lost an assistant, but he and Larry Gordon have gained a film project. Michael Alaimo, who served as Levin’s assistant for several years, has left his post after landing a mid-six figure deal for his spec script “The Breaks” from Joe Roth, who has made it one of his early material purchases since setting up his own company, with Gordon producing the pic. Roth also gave Alaimo a second deal for a blind script to be written later, which puts Alaimo in line to earn a potential seven-figure overall payday if both projects pan out. “I didn’t tell Michael he had to leave his job, I just thought he’d written a very promising piece of work,” said Roth.

But as much as Alaimo felt Levin was a good boss, he was thrilled to graduate from the ranks of aspiring screenwriters paying their bills through more mundane pursuits. “My world has changed completely in the span of one month,” said Alaimo, who graduated UCLA as an English major. “I wasn’t happy or fulfilled at all in being an assistant, much like an actor who makes his living as a waiter. Someone asks what you do and you say you’re a writer, but right now you’re an assistant and you get that look, like, sure, you and every other person out here. It used to just kill me.”

Levin, who was in London and unreachable, was gracious about losing his assistant after helping him make a lot of money. “He was great, he just said, don’t leave me in the lurch,” said Alaimo. “I was careful to do that, and when I got about 200 resumes from people dying for my old job, I realized how lucky I was to have had it.” Alaimo was repped by Original Artists’ Jordan Bayer and Matt Leipzig and Rothman Agency’s Chris Prince and Dennis Kim.

KAPNEK IN NICK FOLD: Emily Kapnek, who created and produced the Nickelodeon series “As Told by Ginger” and is writing the ani Nick series “Noah Knows Best,” has closed a deal with Nickelodeon’s Paramount-based film division to script the animated film “Robinson Crusoe” as well as a second blind deal for a live action script. Both deals are in the low six-figure range for Kapnek, who is repped by AMG.

A SHIRE HIRE: Joel Shire, who most recently agented at ICM and Innovative Artists, is going the manager route and aligning with the Radmin Co., joining former ICM colleague Linne Radmin, Stacy Abrams and Robyn Meisinger. Shire’s bringing with him such clients as Regina Taylor (“I’ll Fly Away”), Charles Shaughnessy (“The Nanny”) and Mo Gaffney (“Absolutely Fabulous”).

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