TRUMAN CAPOTE, WHOSE RAZZLE-DAZZLE LIFE has already inspired a Broadway play, may soon get his first biopic.
Douglas McGrath (“Emma,” “Bullets Over Broadway”), is negotiating to write and direct a project for Killer Films adapted from George Plimpton’s biography, “Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall his Turbulent Career.”
McGrath won’t trace the long social-climbing arc of Capote’s life, but will focus instead on a particular chapter, describing the making of Capote’s true-crime classic “In Cold Blood.”
In 1959, Capote ventured to Kansas on assignment from the New Yorker to research the murder of a family and its effect on a conservative tight-knit town.
The diminutive Capote, whose adenoidal voice was once described by Tennessee Williams as a sound that could only be picked up by bats, arrived with a long pink scarf wrapped around his neck.
“It’s safe to say he didn’t resemble anyone of either gender,” says McGrath.
McGrath’s film will examine how Capote earned the trust of the community and the tight bond he formed with the killers, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, who were executed in 1965.
“It’s a funny and moving story,” says McGrath, who’s repped by ICM. “It starts out a social comedy and ends up something entirely more heartbreaking.”
The project fits Killer’s longstanding interest in true crime and gender-bending, larger than life characters.
“It was a no-brainer,” says Killer producer Christine Vachon, reached on the New Jersey set of Todd Haynes’ “Far From Heaven,” a Killer project that wraps in a week.
Killer Films, headed by Vachon, Pamela Koffler and Katie Roumel, is partially funded through a partnership with John Wells Prods.
Vachon declined to speculate about the budget of the Capote pic, which will hinge on casting and other considerations. Capote is a plum role, she said. In real life, “he was so over the top as a character you almost thought someone was playing him … badly.”
Development on the project will be overseen at Killer by head of development Bradford Simpson and creative exec Jocelyn Hayes.
Plimpton’s book is unconventional as biographies go. Like “Edie,” the Edie Sedgewick bio that Plimpton edited with Jean Stein, the Capote book is an oral history … a format McGrath says, made it easier to adapt.
Plimpton, repped by Russell & Volkening, has optioned several books to Hollywood over the years, including “Paper Lion,” about his extremely brief career with the Detroit Lions, and “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch,” about a baseball pitcher trying out for the New York Mets who had a 160 mph fastball.
But these days, Plimpton, who is about to travel to Antarctica to complete a book about bird-watching for Grove Atlantic, is better known for his walk-on roles in a dozen-odd pics, from “Nixon” to “Good Will Hunting.” It’s not clear if McGrath will find a role for him.
BOOKS ON HOLD: Judith Regan’s imprint at HarperCollins, Regan Books, has had the unusual misfortunate this fall of watching two of its lead titles suspended just weeks before they were scheduled to ship to bookstores.
Dave Navarro’s autobiography, “Don’t Try This At Home,” written with New York Times reporter Neil Strauss, remains in legal limbo after the former Jane’s Addiction guitarist got cold feet and decided to make some last-minute changes. The book chronicles a year of heroin and malaise in the Hollywood Hills.
And now the new book from Michael Moore, whose docus, TV series and books are shot through with barbed attacks on corporate America, appears to have taken a hit from the cautious mood that’s swept through entertainment congloms in the wake of Sept. 11.
Originally scheduled to appear in mid-December, “Stupid White Men and Other Excuses For the State of the Union” is “sprinkled through with comments that might be ill-received” in the current climate, says Moore’s agent Morton Janklow.
In the meantime, close to 100,000 copies of the book are reported to be moldering in a Pennsylvania warehouse.
Janklow declined to elaborate on the negotiations, but a spokesperson at HarperCollins said a decision on the book’s fate is likely to come in the next few days.
In the meantime, HarperCollins appears poised to drop the Navarro book.
“It happens to be a fabulous book,” says Regan, “but owing to decisions he made, we probably will not publish it.”