Imagine has cat for ‘Hat’

Myers in business with U despite 'Dieter' doings

In a happy ending suitable for a Dr. Seuss book, Mike Myers is set to play the stovetop hat-wearing title character in “The Cat in the Hat,” a live-action version of the Seuss classic, which has been developed by Imagine, Universal and DreamWorks.

Deal puts Myers back in business with U and Imagine for the first time since the acrimonious collapse of “Dieter,” a comedy based on a Myers character creation that resulted in a lawsuit and settlement.

Bo Welch, the production designer who expected to make “Dieter” his directorial debut, will instead make it on “The Cat in the Hat.” Imagine chairman Brian Grazer will produce.

Given the “Dieter” fallout, the prospect of working together again seemed for each party about as palatable as a plateful of green eggs and ham. But while the knee-jerk impulse is to consider the “Cat” deal a make-good, Grazer said the marriage of Myers and the material was purer than that.

“After we made ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas,’ we were contemplating ‘Cat in the Hat’ at the time we were going through this whole ‘Dieter’ mess, and I remember saying to one of his CAA agents that Mike would be really good as the cat,” Grazer said. “They said, ‘But you’re in this thing with him,’ and I said, ‘Sure, but he’d still be great, the best creative choice.’ Mike heard about that, and we started talking. I think both of us were flattered with the idea of putting art before all that other stuff. A creative bridge happened in an organic way.”

Grazer is well along toward putting the film in production, as he long ago hired the scripting team of Alec Berg, Jeff Schaeffer and Dave Mandel (Daily Variety, Feb. 26, 2001). Berg and Schaeffer are former exec producers of “Seinfeld” who wrote with Mandel on the show, and though sole script credit on “Grinch” went to Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman, the trio did rewrite work while the film was in production. The new pic will import characters from the original Seuss story, as well as new characters, as two kids invite the cat into their house while their mother is out, only to watch him trash the place with his games.

“It’s great fun to be in a children’s movie, and it’s an honor to be asked to be part of the world of Dr. Seuss,” said Myers, who’s filming the third installment of the Jay Roach-directed Austin Powers series for New Line.

“Cat” was published in 1957 and is one of the top 10 bestselling children’s books ever. Seuss has been a charm for Imagine and Universal, as the Ron Howard-directed “Grinch” grossed $340 million worldwide.

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