FX tackles 9/11

Revolution Studios is teaming with Mayhem Pictures partners Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray for a souped up feature version of “Knight Rider,” the NBC drama that starred David Hasselhoff and a car voiced by former SAG prexy William Daniels.

The vehicle is being overhauled to fit in with the action-oriented youthful demo Revolution is gunning for with its summer entry “XXX.” Hasselhoff will exec produce the film along with series creator Glen A. Larson. Larson has been signed to write the first script draft.

Along with Mark Johnson, Ciardi and Gray produced “The Rookie,” the upcoming fact-based Disney film. The duo also produced with John Strauss the Ed Decter-directed Revolution comedy “The New Guy,” which bows May 10.

The “Knight Rider” concept revolved around crime fighter Michael Knight and his partner, a sleek black customized Pontiac Trans Am that could travel 300 mph and leap 50 feet into the air.

In the deal brokered for him and Larson by ICM, Hasselhoff will have input in the film, and he is also expected to play an onscreen role.

FX PLOTS 911 TALE: Coming off the record ratings of the series debut of the Michael Chiklis drama “The Shield,” FX continues to get into gritty subject matter. The cable network has bought rights to “O’Neill Vs. Osama,” Robert Kolker’s New York magazine article about John O’Neill, the fiery FBI agent who headed the anti-terrorism task force in New York, who early on realized the dangerous potential of a domestic attack by Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, years before the first attack on the World Trade Center. O’Neill spent most of his career working on the case. In a cruel irony, O’Neill resigned from the FBI two weeks before Sept. 11, and took the head of security job at the WTC, where he was killed with thousands of others. The script will be written by Alan Sharp, whose credits include “Rob Roy,” an adaptation of the Caleb Carr novel “Angel of Darkness” and the upcoming A&E telepic “Lathe of Heaven,” starring James Caan. Barbara Lieberman will exec produce.

It is the second O’Neill story to be optioned, after MGM topper Michael Nathanson bought rights to a New Yorker article on the federal agent who was as controversial as he was heroic. FX prexy Kevin Reilly and veep Gerard Bocaccio are eyeing the tale as offering the potential to tell a tale about how terrorism was allowed to proliferate because of bureaucracy, despite the work of agents such as O’Neill. O’Neill was an agent as well connected on the social set as he was with the political crowd, and probably knew more about bin Laden and his goals than anyone in the FBI. From a political survival standpoint, his weakness was his unwillingness to compromise in his quest to root out terrorists. That put him at odds with the US ambassador to Yemen when O’Neill arrived to investigate the bombing of the USS Cole. Making enemies in high places cost O’Neill when he had a briefcase stolen that contained classified documents. An article in the New York Times highlighted O’Neill’s indiscretion and effectively stunted his career.

WELLS INHALES “BREATHTAKER”: Warner Bros.-based John Wells Prods. has bought screen rights to the upcoming Alice Blanchard novel, a deal made just as the novel was signed up by Warner Books editors Jamie Raab and Sara Ann Freed. Brought in by Wells senior veep Laura Holstein, “The Breathtaker” is a drama about a serial killer who strikes during tornadoes and kills his victims in the eye of the storms. UTA and Wendy Weil made the deal. Wells Prods.’s feature unit most recently completed production on “White Oleander” and the Neil Jordan-directed “The Honest Thief.”

PLAY BALL: John Grisham and director Hugh Wilson will now test the wisdom of self-financing a feature. The duo made “Mickey,” a drama Grisham scripted that revolves around a Little League prodigy whose father (Harry Connick Jr.) is on the run from the government, his anonymity jeopardized when his pitcher son becomes a World Series superstar. The G-rated pic seems ideal for a spring release, and Wilson and Grisham just put it before test audiences and distributors. Their screening was set up by New Regency (as a favor), with whom Grisham is in business on “Runaway Jury.” Though there seemed to be hard feelings when Grisham used his veto power to KO a package of director Mike Newell and Will Smith for “Jury,” the pic is moving forward with Gary Fleder directing and New Regency’s “Mickey” efforts indicate relations are OK again. Wilson said the results were strong, but he’s suspending judgment over whether he’ll remain a financier or director for hire. “If we don’t get good distribution, it will be the shittiest idea I ever had, and my wife is not going to be a real happy person,” said Wilson, director of “First Wives Club.” “That said, it was great fun to make, and we think there is an audience for it.”

ROCKETTES RED GLARE: At last week’s Radio City premiere of “Ice Age,” director Chris Wedge surprised Fox topper Tom Rothman by walking him to the front of the stage and getting him to do an impromptu Rockettes-like high kick before a packed house. Rothman said he was unprepared for the dance number. “That’s probably a firing offense, so this movie had better do well,” he joked. A week later, Fox brass was collectively high-kicking after Wedge and the White Plains, N.Y.-based Blue Sky Studios scored a huge hit, a feat Fox had previously been unable to do in traditional cell animation.

SCOTT FINDS “I.D.”: William Lee Scott has joined an “I.D.” ensemble that includes John Cusack, Ray Liotta and Amanda Peet, who all topline the James Mangold-directed Columbia drama about a group holed up in a hotel during a desert storm, only to be bumped off, one by one. Scott, last seen in “Pearl Harbor” and “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” is also in talks to star in the FilmEngine pic “Butterfly Effect.”

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