Lit lions roaring at Good Machine

The Write Stuff - Jonathan Bing

New York’s Good Machine may be well known as a mecca for bad-boy directors and writers like Todd Solondz (“Happiness”) and Charlie Kaufman (“Being John Malkovich”).

But lately, a different crowd of writers has shown up at its door — not cage-rattling newcomers, but long-in-the-tooth literary lions like Robert Stone, John Irving, E. Annie Proulx and E.L. Doctorow. These novelists could write their own ticket at almost any studio in Hollywood, but in the words of Good Machine partner Ted Hope, “they’ve all been very reluctant to get involved in the Hollywood game.”

Proulx, who wrote “The Shipping News,” and E.L. Doctorow, author of “Ragtime,” are the most recent arrivals.

Proulx’s short story collection, “Brokeback Mountain,” previously under option at Sony, is now in development at Good Machine. Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, repped by CAA, are adapting. Proulx is repped by Lynn Pleshette.

Doctorow just brought Good Machine an untitled pitch. Good Machine partner Ted Hope won’t say what it’s about, but concedes it’s a period piece with three leads — a fortysomething woman and a twentysomething man and woman.

Doctorow’s deal was brokered by ICM. Good Machine is shopping the pitch to studios, with Doctorow attached as screenwriter.

The duo joins an eclectic array of writers with projects at Good Machine. These include GQ editor Walter Kirn, who optioned his novel “Thumbsucker” to Cinema-A-Go-Go partners Bob Stephenson and Jay Shapiro, who will produce with Good Machine, from a script by Mike Mills. Then there’s author Harvey Pekar, whose “American Splendor” comic series goes into production as a Good Machine feature this fall, and Israeli author A.B. Yehosua, whose novel “Journey to the End of the Millennium” is now under option.

“There isn’t a set pattern to how we do this,” says Hope, who adds that the scale of these projects could vary widely.

While these are high-profile books, however, they won’t be outsize studio productions confined to A-list casting ideas. The company is currently developing “Door in the Floor,” based on Irving’s “Widow for One Year,” and is considering Frances McDormand and Laura Linney for the lead.

“We don’t want to go out and put in someone who three years ago was a big name at the box office and can justify the budget but won’t be as good,” says Hope.

After all, he says, its Good Machine’s fidelity to the vision of its writers/directors that attracted these authors to the shingle. “We staked our representation on being faithful to the integrity of filmmakers and their work,” he says. “The fruits of that is that prose writers see the movies we’ve done, and they see a filmmaker’s stamp. But we’ve also stayed true to the underlying material.”

ARTICLE KING:Last week’s New Yorker article by David Samuels, on long-distance runner and ivy-league impostor James Hogue, is an adventurous feat of reportage the sort of which usually leads to an outpouring of interest from Hollywood producers.

It did: ICM is shopping dramatic rights to the article and Hogue’s life rights, and the magazine has fielded several queries from H’wood.

What’s different is that Samuels has already developed a film about Hogue’s life — a documentary directed by Jesse Moss.

When the piece was first commissioned for Harper’s a few years back, Samuels and Moss cobbled together a trailer which they used to obtain finishing funds for the pic. It’s now in production under Sheila Nevins in the docu department at HBO, but the cabler declined to confirm details about the project or when it will air.

FAIR REPORTING:Jack Welch, your forthcoming memoir may be the most anticipated book since “Harry Potter IV,” but you’re no longer part of the New Establishment.

Or so says Vanity Fair, which is about to release its annual list of information-age leaders. And Welch, it says, no longer matters, tumbling off the list after placing 21st last year. At the top, for the second straight year, is AOL Time Warner’s Steve Case. Jean-Marie Messier hit the list for the first time at number 7.

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