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Big ‘Hoax’ coaxing Hallstrom

Director takes on Hughes story

A correction was made to this article on March 11, 2005.

Lasse Hallstrom is poised to direct “Hoax,” a film about Clifford Irving, the man who wrote and sold a bogus biography of billionaire aviator Howard Hughes to McGraw-Hill.

Richard Gere is in talks to play Irving, and Alfred Molina is in talks to play Richard Suskind, his accomplice in pulling off one of the great media hoaxes.

“Hoax” is taking shape quickly. Script by William Wheeler is controlled by “The Day After Tomorrow” producer Mark Gordon, who has been developing the project for at least five years. Gordon, who just split from financier Bob Yari, is setting up the project at Stratus for financing on a modest budget. Gordon will produce with Betsy Beers, Joshua Maurer and Leslie Holleran. Yari will produce.

Pic is based on Irving’s published account of his misdeed, for which he was given a 2½-year jail sentence in 1972. He convinced his publisher that he’d developed a relationship with Hughes, who by that time hadn’t been seen in public for years. Irving even forged documents that appeared to prove he had the ear of the billionaire. Even when Hughes emerged momentarily from seclusion for a telephone news conference to say the book was bogus, McGraw-Hill continued to stand by Irving, who stuck to his story until he finally had no choice but to cop to his crime.

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