Curtis makes her ‘Mark’ with D’Works

Studio options 'Twain' novel, hooks Franco for lead

After spending six years as Steven Spielberg’s assistant and then becoming a producer on his films, Bonnie Curtis has inked a two-year nonexclusive DreamWorks producing deal.

The studio has optioned for her the Thomas Hauser novel “Mark Twain Remembers,” a coming-of-age story about Samuel Clemens. James Franco is attached to play the young author.

Book follow the 20-year-old Clemens as he leaves Missouri and meets up with a slave prize fighter and his colorful master/promoter. Clemens is determined to free the slave. Once he does, the ex-master plots to win him back in a rigged bare-knuckle brawl against a bigger and more experienced opponent.

Ring of authenticity

Hauser’s a renowned boxing author who took the tale to HBO fight announcer Jim Lampley, who partners in Crystal Spring Prods. with Stephen Ricci.

They brought in Jonathan Schwartz, a former ICM business affairs lawyer who just started his own production company, Crispy Films, after leaving his exec veep post at Peter Gabriel’s Real World. Schwartz used his relationships to hook Franco on the book. They then enlisted Curtis to produce with them under her new studio deal. They will set a writer shortly and have several other big actors circling parts.

Armed with a journalism degree, Curtis moved from Texas to Hollywood in 1988. A job Xeroxing scripts at Disney led to a recommendation, and before she knew it, Curtis was in charge of organizing Spielberg’s day. She began the job when he was directing “Hook” and did it for six years, through his Oscar-winning “Schindler’s List.”

She eventually received an associate producer credit on “Amistad” and producing credit on “Saving Private Ryan,” “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” and “Minority Report.” When Curtis felt ready to leave the nest, Spielberg surprised her by staking her to the DreamWorks deal.

Recruiting drive

Curtis immediately asked him to direct “Mark Twain Remembers.” She said Spielberg challenged her and her producing partners to develop a script worth considering.

She has also formed an alliance with former Icon exec Jim Lemley on three projects. Two are designed as potential directing projects for Antoine Fuqua; the “Training Day” helmer would produce with Curtis and Lemley.

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