THE WARNER BROS. FEATURE FILM and book divisions are teaming up to propel producer Paul Lussier into the top ranks of serious historical novelists.Lussier, known for the 1992 Fox film “Doing Time on Maple Drive” and nearly a dozen other TV films and miniseries, has a TV deal with Warner. But his latest project is a book, “Last Refuge of Scoundrels,” out from Warner Books next month, which he’ll adapt for Bill Gerber’s Warner-based production shingle. He turns in the script today and plans to cast the feature for a possible pre-strike start date. The novel sets out to rewrite the history of the American Revolution by focusing on the uncelebrated lives of midwives, blacks, prostitutes, paupers and farmers who played a role in the defeat of the British. Reviews will soon appear in publications ranging from the Yale Review to Glamour, and a cover story on Lussier is set to run in the Advocate. “Scoundrels” was initially set up as a Turner miniseries, but Lussier says the controversial nature of the material killed the deal. “I feel they weren’t ready for the challenge,” he says. Lussier, who with Gerber, will exec produce a sequel to “Days of Wine and Roses” for CBS and is now writing a book about the arrival of the Mayflower focusing on American Indians, adds, “What I’m trying to do is get traditional pop culture narratives to include alternative perspectives.” IN THE ANNALS OF ALLEGED perfidious agentry, there are few stories as strange as that surrounding an option producer Frank Beddor has just taken on C. Careth Ellingson’s 1987 thriller, “Heavy Connections.” Beddor (“There’s Something About Mary”) took an interest in Ellingson’s now-out-of-print novel, which he thought would make a suitable vehicle for a female Charles Bronson, and contacted Ellingson’s agent, a prominent New York lit agent. Beddor says he was told that the author, who allegedly lived in Coral Gables, Fla., was on a sailing trip. Several months passed, however, without word from the author, who was still said to be sailing. In a scene that could have been cut from said “Mary” pic, Beddor hired a local private investigator. It turns out the author had been dead since 1996. Beddor found Ellingson’s family, which negotiated without the benefit of an agent. He’s now attached screenwriter Ken Friedman (“Johnny Handsome”) to adapt it. The book tells of a single mother seeking vengeance for the murder of her daughter, who had stumbled upon a government conspiracy. Beddor’s shingle, Automatic Pictures, has a deal with Pathe. IN WHAT COULD BE A prologue to a job scripting a Muppet film down the road, children’s book author Ross Venokur has sold a pitch to Jim Henson Pictures. The project is tentatively called “Grumpalump.” It tells of an unhappy boy who gives birth to a vile monster in an effort to exact revenge on the world. The monster grows ever bigger and nastier, however, and the story concludes with a dramatic showdown at a giant produce festival. Venokur, whose credits include such books as “The Autobiography of Meatball Finkelstein” and “The Amazing Frecktacle,” and who boasts a Cat-in-the-Hat tattoo on one arm, has various Hollywood deals in the hopper, including a TV pilot with Jersey Films. But he hasn’t previously sold a pitch that wasn’t already a book. Once Venokur develops “Grumpalump” as a feature, he may shop it to publishers. DENNIS PUBLISHING WILL TACKLE the music world with a new glossy, Blender, set to appear four times in 2001. The magazine group is responsible for Maxim and Stuff, two rare success stories in a startup magazine market that in recent months has been hit with nothing but bad news, from rising postage costs to a rocky ad climate. As its title suggests, Blender will have an eclectic range, covering dance, hip-hop, rock and R&B. The editor-in-chief of Blender will be former Q magazine editor Andy Pemberton, and the publisher is Malcolm Cambell, former publisher of Spin. Dennis will distrib 400,000 copies of the first issue.
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