Sony family unearths cult classic ‘Leonore’

SONY FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT has acquired rights to Roman Dirge’s cult comic “Lenore” for an animated film that will be scripted by Caroline Thompson and Larry Wilson, in a deal worth high six figures against potential seven figures. The film is being produced by Marc Platt and Animanagement.

Thompson’s scripting credits include “A Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Edward Scissorhands” and Wilson’s include “Beetlejuice.” Their last collaboration was “The Addams Family.” So, despite this being a project developed for Sony Family Entertainment, the film is being conceived as a decidedly black comedy with heart.

Lenore of the title is a 10-year old girl who returns from the dead, primarily because she feels her family needs her. The tone, said Thompson, is much in line with that of “South Park.” “We are looking to appeal to adults as much as the sophisticated 10 year old,” she said. “Lenore means well, when, for instance, she tries to help out by taking the neighbor baby to the park. While she feeds the bird, the baby whines and she says, ‘Oh, you want to feed them.’ She puts the feed on the baby, and the birds begin pecking away.” Though in the comic the child expired, he’ll merely have a few holes put in him during the film, she said.

The upstart Sony Family Ent., which has kept its projects largely under wraps, wouldn’t comment on the deal. While the subject matter sounds sinister for a family film shingle, “Lenore” has a lot in common with the stop-motion comedy “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” That film had such moments as Santa being stretched on a torture rack, and while Disney couldn’t exactly figure out how to market the pic, it has done exceptionally well on video with kids who got the humor, Thompson said. She said the project came together when she was approached with the material by Platt, who was head of production at Orion and paired Thompson and Wilson on “The Addams Family.” “I wanted to work with Larry again, I missed him,” she said.

COP STORY IS MOVIE MATERIAL: Paramount-based producer Scott Rudin has paid low against mid-six figures to option Craig Horowitz’s recent New York Magazine article “The Cop and the Stalker” and will use the true story of a New York cop as the basis for a feature film. The article, published in April, focused on Vincent Davis, who in the early ’80s was living out his dreams of becoming a police officer like his father, and preparing to marry the girl of his dreams. The dream became a nightmare when he and his girlfriend began to be harassed by her high school boyfriend, Richie Sabol, who at the time was serving a three-year stretch for attempted robbery, but found time to threaten both with physical violence if they didn’t break up.

Depending on whom you believe, the harassment continued periodically over the next 14 years, leading Davis to become obsessed with his tormentor, who had become the point man in the government’s attempts to infiltrate the mob in New York and New Jersey.

According to Horowitz’s article, Davis’s marriage broke up, he wound up getting fired from his job and lost his belongings in an apartment fire he’s sure Sabol set. Worst of all, he was convicted in federal court on eleven counts of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and conspiracy, and was sentenced to 45 months in prison, serving 16 months before his conviction was overturned on appeal. Government prosecutors are trying him for the third time, trying to put him behind bars. All because his wife was unfortunate enough to be harassed by a man who, despite spending half his life in jail on various charges, became a superstar government informant, which got him sentence reductions. The cop’s obsession got in the way, and prosecutors maintain he turned in the informant to the mobsters under investigation, hoping to get Sabol eliminated permanently.

The former cop still faces a 10-year sentence, while Sabol, a convicted violent felon, is free in the witness protection program, after his snitch work led to the conviction of eight reputed members of the Lucchese crime family on a variety of felonies. Rudin will assign a writer to fictionalize the tale for a drama about a man whose inclination to protect his family became an obsessive descent into hell. Horowitz, a contributing editor for NY Mag, was repped by Paradigm and lit agent David Black.

WICK’S PICS: While “Gladiator” got knocked from the top B.O. spot by “Dinosaur,” the pic’s producer, Doug Wick, scored a couple of weeks with the top grossing film and top-selling video in “Stuart Little.” Wick, who later this summer opens the Paul Verhoeven-directed “The Hollow Man” and just got Tony Scott to direct Brad Pitt and Robert Redford in “Spy Game” for Universal and Beacon, said his biggest surprise on “Gladiator” was Ridley Scott’s reception to collaboration on a pic which took dozens of script drafts to hone, as well as the film’s expansion to a female audience.

ROSSI KEEPS WORKING: Fresh from wrapping another season of “Ally McBeal,” Portia de Rossi has signed to play female lead in “Cletis Tout” opposite Christian Slater, Tim Allen and Richard Dreyfuss for Seven Arts. De Rossi just completed the Bruce Wagner-directed “Women in Film,” a seriocomic look at women in the film industry, which costarred Beverly D’Angelo and Marianne Jean-Baptiste, with Killer Films’ Christine Vachon and Pam Koffler producing. De Rossi, discovered while a Melbourne law student by John Duigan and cast in “Sirens,” is repped by Hyler Management and ICM.

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