Dish: Par’s ‘bang, zoom’

'Honeymooners' bused to bigscreen

Paramount Pictures wants to bring back “The Honeymooners” as a movie — a contemporary movie at that.

Ralph Kramden, the character immortalized by Jackie Gleason, will be a New York bus driver and his neighbor Norton, the Art Carney character, will still be toiling in the sewers.

Paramount Pictures and Deep River Productions have acquired screen rights to the classic series from CBS, and the studio has set “Mad About You” co-creator Danny Jacobson to write the script.

While it is difficult to imagine actors reprising the roles played indelibly by Gleason, Carney, Audrey Meadows as Alice Kramden and Joyce Randolph as Trixie Norton, Jacobson will create some distance from direct comparisons by crafting a modern story involving the foursome. But David Friendly, who’ll produce with Deep River Productions partner Marc Turtletaub, said the signature lines and themes will be intact.

“You can certainly expect to hear the term ‘Bang, Zoom’ a few times, and using the phrases and gestures and other staples of the show is critical,” Friendly said. “Most important is getting the right mix of heart and comedy that was evident in all 39 episodes.”

The show originated in 1951 as a recurring sketch on “DuMont’s Cavalcade of Stars,” and moved with Gleason to CBS as a running gag in “The Jackie Gleason Show.” He turned it into a series when he tired of the variety show grind, but the series only ran from 1955-56. It has played in reruns ever since.

Scripter Jacobson has long been a fan of the show and said that he became head writer for the first two seasons of “Roseanne” because the couple’s blue collar dynamic so reminded him of the comedy classic. “We just don’t want to replicate what was on the original episodes, but the one thing they never covered was the actual honeymoon, and that is what we’ll concentrate on,” said Jacobson, who’s in Gotham trying to mount a production of a play he wrote called “Bang, Zoom,” an obvious reference to his favorite series. “The goal here is for the audience to feel like I did after watching those original episodes, which was that you laughed hard and often, but got choked up in the end because at its core was a great love story. It certainly won’t be sappy, because, after all, he was a blue collar bus driver from Brooklyn, and there’s an element of reality matched with those great characters.”

Deep River was formed as an autonomous producer that funds its own development and overhead, and “The Honeymooners” marks its first alignment with a studio so early in the development process. Friendly, Turtletaub and exec producer Hal Ross approached Paramount got involved because the rights were held by its sister company, CBS. “Sherry Lansing and John Goldwyn sparked to the idea, which was doable because it was all under one roof at Viacom,” Friendly said.

DEMAND FOR DUFF: The success of family films and especially “Big Fat Liar” has helped establish a premium for kids with a built-in fan base. “Liar” benefited from “Malcolm in the Middle” star Frankie Muniz and Nickelodeon staple Amanda Bynes. Now it’s Hilary Duff’s turn. Duff, the 14-year-old who stars in the popular Disney Channel series “Lizzie McGuire,” has been signed to co-star alongside Muniz in the MGM comedy “Agent Cody Banks.” Duff landed near seven-figures for her first starring theatrical role, and took it several offers that included one from Disney to turn “Lizzie McGuire” into a feature film. “Agent Cody Banks,” which is being produced by Dylan Sellers Productions and Maverick Films for Splendid Pictures, will begin production shortly for a spring 2003 release. Harald Zwart (“One Night at McCool’s”) has been set to direct the script by Jeffrey Jurgensen.

BLADE HERO GETS PERCENTER: Hot off a movie resurgence that most recently includes “Planet of the Apes” and “Blade 2,” Kris Kristofferson has signed with his first agency in years. Kristofferson’s now aligned with IFA and continues with Steve Chasman of Current Ent.

“HELL” OF A SPEC DEAL: Singer/Jensen, formed recently by Joe Singer and Janet Jensen, continues to be an active buyer. Company has paid a six-figure sum for “Green Hell,” an Elwood Reid-scripted spec script that manages the neat trick of marrying the extreme sports craze with “Deliverance.” A group of extreme sports enthusiasts get involved in a treasure hunt in a rainforest. The quest turns dangerous when the group is pursued by a brutal gang looking for the same thing. The drama creates an opportunity for a young cast of thrillseekers.

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