Forman to helm 'Quills' scribe's adaptation for Phoenix

Playwright and screenwriter Doug Wright has inked to adapt Donald E. Westlake’s comedy crime novel “Bad News” for Phoenix Pictures.

Pic will be helmed by Milos Forman (Daily Variety, May 4), a component that Wright called “undeniably seductive.”

Deal reunites Forman and Phoenix topper Mike Medavoy, who collaborated on “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” when Medavoy worked at United Artists, and on “Amadeus” when Medavoy headed Orion Pictures. Both pics resulted in picture and director Oscars for Forman. More recently, Phoenix released Forman’s “The People vs. Larry Flynt.”

Medavoy will oversee the development of “Bad News” with Phoenix veepee of production Brad Fischer.

Wright is best known for adapting his original legiter “Quills” into a screenplay for Fox Searchlight, which won the National Board of Review’s best pic award last year.

He also recently completed “The Burial” for producers Ed Saxon and Bobby Schreiber, set up at Warner Bros. Published in April by Mysterious Press, novel follows a professional thief who gets pulled into a grave-robbing and reburial scam to gain control of a Native American casino.

“Incredibly, it’s almost a French farce,” Wright said. “But instead of doors slamming, it’s grave-swapping, you know? Fiction in Hollywood so often buys the fallacious argument that characters have to be doing good in order to be likable. And Westlake proves that deliciously wrong, because his people are so often doing deeply appalling acts, but are still endearing.

“The great thing about Westlake is how easily he shuttles between this charmingly non-violent world of (professional thief John) Dortmunder and the gritty, bloody sphere of (another Westlake protagonist, homicidal writer Bryce) Proctorr.”

Wright is currently in Gotham, readying his new play “Unwrap Your Candy” for its Oct. 8 premiere Off Broadway at the Vineyard Theater.

He described the play as “four mordantly funny and macabre bedtime tales — for adults” which will also mark his New York helming debut. He then confessed: “I’m reading that right off a pamphlet here. I am very nervous about it, but at least, whether it goes wrong or right, it was in my hands.”

Wright was repped in the “Bad News” deal by International Creative Management.

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