Warners drafts ‘Someone’

Tollin Robbins Prods. has made a deal with Warner Bros. and Gaylord Films for “Someone to Lean On,” a true story set on the high school football field that will be scripted by Mike Rich (“Finding Forrester”). TRP partner Mike Tollin, who just wrapped his feature directorial debut with “Summer Catch” for WB, starring Freddie Prinze Jr., will direct.

Based on a Sports Illustrated story by Gary Smith, “Someone” is the story of a mentally challenged boy who, despite being able to barely write or speak, transforms himself, with the help from a high school football coach, from school laughingstock to a beloved figure in a small town.

“It’s the most unlikely of buddy stories, two guys on absolute opposite ends of the planet finding and needing each other,” said Tollin.

TRP has a long sports resume that ranges from the sitcom “Arliss” to the films “Varsity Blues,” “Ready to Rumble” and “Summer Catch.” But Tollin said sports is merely the backdrop for “Someone to Lean On,” a project that Gaylord’s Hunt Lowry and WB’s Kevin McCormick mutually sparked to.

“This is about the humanity of these two men, and the collective consciousness of a small town,” said Tollin. “I read ‘Finding Forrester’ and ‘The Rookie’ and thought Mike (Rich) would be the perfect writer for a story about second chances.”

Rich, who did morning newscasts for eight years at a Portland, Ore., radio station, won a prestigious Nicholl Fellowship for “Finding Forrester.” Before he knew it, he was signed by UTA and had a movie in production with Gus Van Sant directing and Sean Connery starring. Then he wrote “The Rookie,” the Disney comedy based on Jim Morris, a science teacher-turned Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher who made his rookie debut at age 37. Dennis Quaid will star and John Lee Hancock is directing.

With a ridiculously high batting average for a screenwriter–two scripts, two films made–Rich will make the Tollin film his third script. And, given the possibility of a writers strike, he could always go back to radio. “I feel truly blessed for all that’s happened and only go on the air because I’ve got friends in the radio business,” he said. “But I leave open all possibilities.”

“CHAINED” HEAT: An inevitable byproduct of the current reality show craze: what happens when too much reality is delivered for network tastes? That was the dilemma facing both Endemol and UPN with “Chains of Love,” a racy dating game format in which a player is bound to four suitors by actual chains, with cameras monitoring every move over four days. In the episode airing tonight, the contestant in this first-names-only show, Stephanie, has sex on camera with the guy who survives the four day weeding-out process. Copies of the raw camera footage have begun to make the rounds, and, from an initial Dish viewing, this column can reliably report that the duo displays dexterity while handcuffed that hasn’t been seen since Houdini’s heyday. Endemol USA president David Goldberg said the episode being aired will eliminate most of the saucy stuff. “We set out to make a reality show where you’d let things run their natural course and we certainly got the show we wanted,” he said. “But as an American production company, we know that we have to produce what falls within the parameters of a network. UPN saw the racy footage and we both decided on our limits. We couldn’t show two people in bed getting hot and heavy, but while you don’t literally see it, you can use your imagination.” That’s new for Endemol, which produces reality shows overseas where more can be shown. “If this was Portugal or England, you’d see a lot more,” said Goldberg, who indicated that the episode climax wasn’t an isolated incident in the six episodes shot. “It’s an extremely racy, intense, intimate format. It happens.”

WB STRIKES “GOLD”: In a deal worth $350,000 against $750,000, Warner Bros. has made a preemptive buy of “Fool’s Gold,” a romantic caper spec script written by John Claflin and Dan Zelman, with Jon Klane producing. The pic’s set up for a star coupling as the film concerns a man and woman whose discovery of a lucrative treasure makes them the toast of married couples and gets them on the cover of magazines such as National Geographic. Cut to a few years later, when their attempt to find another lucrative treasure has left their marriage shipwrecked and has plunged them into debt. Desperate, the couple attempts to bilk a wealthy investor with the promise of a big score. WB’s Jeff Robinov will steer the film.

GOOD GENES: Kiera Chaplin, granddaughter of the silent screen legend Charlie Chaplin, is beginning to make noise in Hollywood. Chaplin, who has signed with Steven Chasman’s Current Ent., has been booked to star in “The Year That Trembled,” an adaptation of the Scott Lax novel that takes place at the time of the Kent State shootings. The film was scripted by Jay Craven, who’ll direct, and the film will begin shooting May 22 in Ohio.

DISHINGS: A Warner Bros. tradition used to be making foreign-driven films bolstered by action stars like Steven Seagal and Sly Stallone. A new tradition is to hire those guys, only to have them upstaged in marketing campaigns by younger costars. It happened to Seagal on “Exit Wounds,” in which rapper DMX got most of the kudos for a strong opening weekend. It’s happening again to Stallone on the racing pic “Driven,” where he’s barely depicted in trailers, supplanted by Kip Pardue, the “Remember the Titans” quarterback who’s on a fast track to stardom. The difference here, say studio sources, was that Stallone, who wrote the film, voluntarily deferred. It wasn’t until Bruce Willis veered from action hero to films such as “Pulp Fiction” and “Sixth Sense” that his career got a second wind, and maybe Stallone will be helped by the first signs of vulnerability and humility he’s shown (with a few exceptions) since “Rocky.”

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