'Happyness' actor to produce film
Columbia has scored another Will Smith project from the team behind “The Pursuit of Happyness.”Studio nabbed rights to “Cooked,” a tome by an inner-city drug dealer turned Vegas celebrity chef, for Smith to produce under his Overbrook shingle. He may also star, pending script approval. Overbrook’s James Lassiter will also produce, along with Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal of Escape Artists. Shingles last paired on “The Pursuit of Happyness,” which netted Smith an Oscar nom. William Morrow published Jeff Henderson’s tome late last month. It chronicles his journey from top San Diego cocaine dealer to imprisonment, where he discovered a passion for cooking, and his struggles to make it as a chef. Chef Jeff, as he calls himself, eventually became exec chef at Cafe Bellagio in Las Vegas. “Jeff Henderson’s book is truly inspiring, and after meeting him, I knew we had to turn his story into a movie,” Lassiter said. Black drew parallels between this project and “The Pursuit of Happyness,” noting that that pic “opened our eyes to the reality of what a second chance can mean to someone who’s determined to change their life.” UTA’s Howie Sanders brokered the deal with Sony, working with Henderson’s reps, Michael Psaltis of Culinary Cooperative and Joe Regal of Regal Literary.