Fox swings at ‘Pitch’; Kismet scares up rights

Fox 2000 is plotting a remake of “Fever Pitch,” the 1997 British adaptation of the Nick Hornby book that novelized his obsession with a professional soccer team. The studio has brought in Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel to Americanize the tale and change the focus to baseball, and specifically the fabled futility of the Boston Red Sox.

The film will be produced by Alan Greenspan of International Arts and Amanda Posey of Wildgaze Films. Greenspan exec produced the Americanized version of the Hornby novel “High Fidelity,” which starred John Cusack, while Posey produced the original “Fever Pitch” for Film Four. Hornby, who wrote the script for the original movie, will exec produce the remake with original director David Evans. Fox 2000 exec Jack Leslie brought it into the studio.

The remake idea was hatched by Greenspan, who, after working with “High Fidelity” producer Mike Newell at Dogstar, tried to get Hornby’s earlier novel into development only to find that Posey had it on track already as a film that starred Colin Firth. “I went back and read it, and found that there were universal themes in it that I could relate to, even growing up as a New York Yankees fan,” Greenspan said. Hornby wrote about how, from the age of 10, he recovered from the breakup of his parents by becoming an obsessive fan of the North London team Arsenal, whose ups and downs dominated his life. That changed, finally, when the Arsenal won the league championship in dramatic fashion, at a time when the protagonist frees himself of its grip.

Greenspan and Posey decided to change the framework to baseball, and Hornby sparked to the idea of a Hollywood version of his book, even as he waits for the screen version of “About A Boy,” which was directed by Chris and Paul Weitz and stars Hugh Grant.

The new “Pitch” protagonist is a statistics-obsessed math teacher who chose that profession so that his summers would be free to follow the Bosox. “The Red Sox will be the crutch and justification for the man being unable to make commitments in his personal and professional life,” Posey said. “That is, until he meets a woman he can fall in love with and must choose between the team and the woman. Actually portraying the Red Sox as a World Series winner would make the story stray from its romantic comedy premise toward fantasy, but the filmmakers are working to find an acceptable Bosox catalyst to prompt the man to grow up. CAA reps the writers.

BRAVO FOR BAVA: Kismet Entertainment Group and International Media Films have formed a new company, Kismet Classics, designed to exploit the remake rights of the 13 films helmed by Italian horror film director Mario Bava, along with 14 other Italian horror, sci-fi and adventure films. It’s the first library deal for Kismet, which was formed by David E. Allen, and came about when he and Kismet prexy Harmon Kaslow connected with Alfredo Leone, who produced many of the films they sought and had been systematically gathering up the rights. Bava’s films include “Baron Blood,” the Boris Karloff starrer “Black Sabbath,” “Black Sunday,” “House of Exorcism” and “Bay of Blood,” the latter of which was a forerunner to the slasher pic genre. Bava influenced filmmakers from Wes Craven and Quentin Tarantino and with “The Other” demonstrating a renewed audience appetite for classic scare fare, Kismet’s Allen said he’s already had overtures from several major helmers. “Bava was an auteur who didn’t really get much credit until after he retired, but who had great style and substance to his films,” Allen said. “It was so impressive to see that what he pioneered during the sixties and seventies, you were still seeing done into the nineties.” Allen said the venture’s construct will be reminiscent to Dark Castle, the venture formed by Joel Silver and Bob Zemeckis primarily to redo the films of horror maestro William Castle. Allen, whose Kismet just completed “Dog Soldiers” and is in post-production on the Samuel L. Jackson starrer “No Good Deed,” will begin trying to scare up remake deals at studios immediately.

ARQUETTE’S TOLERANCE QUEST: Celebrities have stepped up in many ways after the tragic events of Sept. 11 and with the U.S. now shelling Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan, actresses Patricia Arquette and Mary Louise Parker are mobilizing stars for a campaign to remind Americans not to misdirect justifiable anger on the wrong people. The duo has mobilized a series of public service announcements to run on radio and television, urging patience and tolerance. Arquette started the campaign when she began to hear the volume of hatred being directed toward Arabs after the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings. “I recently went onto a community online post room and was shocked to see horribly racist postings all over the place, obviously by people too young to realize what happened when this country set up internment camps during World War II,” she said. They’ve already gotten about 60 celebs to record PSAs including Ozzy Osbourne, Adam Sandler, Tim Allen, Keith Richards, Gwen Stefani, David Duchovny and Benicio Del Toro. The ads will begin airing on radio and will be aired in classrooms, Arquette said, “to reiterate that discrimination isn’t cool.” Arquette’s also mobilizing artists to hatch paintings that will weave the symbol of the American flag with images that press the case for tolerance. The hope is to raise funds to benefit a growing list of victims of hate crimes that have occurred since Sept. 11. Arquette’s trying to get others to step up, asking they contact her agent, David DeCamillo, at the Gersh Agency.

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