Miramax plays with Irving’s ‘Hand’

In a deal that reteams the architects of “The Cider House Rules,” Miramax Films will turn John Irving’s upcoming novel “The Fourth Hand” into a feature to be scripted by Irving and directed by Lasse Hallstrom (“Chocolat”).

FilmColony’s Richard Gladstein will produce with Leslie Holleran, Hallstrom’s partner in Laha Films.

“The Fourth Hand” is about Patrick Wallingford, a handsome, womanizing TV reporter who doesn’t realize something’s missing from his life until his hand is bitten off by a lion during a live report. Suddenly famous, the reporter meets a childless Wisconsin woman who’ll give him the hand of her recently deceased husband if the reporter will help her to conceive a child. George Clooney is a possible frontrunner for the lead role.

Miramax’s Meryl Poster and Erica Steinberg will oversee the pic in a deal brokered by CAA’s Bob Bookman.

While it would seem that Irving, who won an Oscar for adapting “Rules,” gave away any dealmaking suspense by opening the new book with a dedication to Gladstein and Hallstrom, the author said the recent turn of events has been surprising. “I imagined we’d be working together again, but on an original screenplay, not this,” he said.Gladstein said the author dedication was a weighty issue for him. “I only discovered the dedication when he sent me the book and (I) was thoroughly intimidated, thinking, what if I didn’t like it?” he said.While he said he doesn’t think of movie possibilities while writing his novels, Irving has warmed to the filmmaking process, and not just because the trips to L.A. are a welcome respite from the frigid Vermont winters. “My principal creative pursuit is so solitary, that to be my age and have a legitimate second career in a collaborative environment is a gratification I never expected,” Irving said.

That transition was helped by something that sets him apart from most brand-name authors: the willingness to amputate huge chunks of prose in the scripting process. “As long as you trust your partners, you have to be willing to let the book go,” Irving said.

CASTLE ROCK HUDDLES: In a deal worth mid-six-figures, Castle Rock has optioned screen rights to “Runt of the Litter,” an autobiographical one-man play by former Houston Oilers defensive back Bo Eason. Project is being workshopped today and tomorrow at the Tamarind Theater with an eye toward an Off Broadway bow this fall. The play’s directed by Larry Moss, who’ll produce the pic with Dawn Eason through Frank Darabont’s Darkwoods Prods. banner, where exec Anna Garduno brought in the project and will quarterback its transformation into film.

“Runt” features Eason performing the fictionalized version of his own story of becoming an undersized, overachieving pro football player in an effort to please a father who showed little affection. In the ICM-brokered deal, Eason will write the script.

HELTER SKELTER REDO: “Helter Skelter,” Vincent Bugliosi’s bestselling account of his successful prosecution of Charles Manson and his “family” for their 1969 murder spree, is being revived for feature treatment. Originally adapted into a highly rated 1976 TV movie that was blacked out in Los Angeles and some other cities because of its incendiary content, the book has been turned into a feature script by Bugliosi. The prosecutor-turned-author has worked with Platinum Prods. and has a script ready, just as the 30th anniversary approaches of the conviction of Manson, who originally got the death sentence for masterminding one of the most bizarre mass-murder cases in American history.

“The TV movie put the emphasis on the investigation and prosecution, but the film will put more emphasis on Manson and the origins of his family,” said Bugliosi.

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