Showrunner will develop series with 20th TV

“Nip/Tuck” creator Ryan Murphy has sutured together a multiyear deal worth $15 million that’s so big, it spans three News Corp. entities: FX, 20th Century Fox TV and the Fox net.

The 3½-year pact pays Murphy an annual salary just north of $4 million. It also advances Murphy an extra $2 million in overhead for his production shingle.

Under the deal, Murphy will stay on as showrunner for a fifth season of FX’s top-rated “Nip/Tuck.” At the same time, he’ll exclusively develop series with 20th Century Fox — which includes a first-look deal with Fox Broadcasting.

Pact was jointly orchestrated by FX prexy John Landgraf, 20th Century Fox TV toppers Gary Newman and Dana Walden and Fox Entertainment chief Peter Liguori.

Separately, Murphy is firming plans to spend his hiatus directing Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts in “Need,” a thriller to be produced by Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal. Independent financing is being mobilized for a late fall start.

Kidman and Watts, friends since they were young actresses in Australia, have been looking for a project to do together. The sexy thriller will cast them as archenemies: Watts will play a psychiatrist, Kidman the unstable patient who steals the shrink’s husband.

In signing one of the biggest showrunner deals in town, Murphy will be busy right up until the moment he begins work on the movie. He will immediately begin overseeing a fifth season of “Nip/Tuck,” which will span 22 episodes and (as previously announced) switch locales from Miami to Los Angeles.

The series, which stars Julian McMahon and Dylan Walsh, is the top-rated scripted skein in basic cable history among adults 18-49.

Simultaneously, Murphy will prep his next FX pilot creation, “4 oz.,” a drama he will exec produce with Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner.

Murphy, who sold the series to FX topper Landgraf last fall (Daily Variety, Sept. 27), conceived “4 oz.” to be a multiseason chronicle of the metamorphosis of a married sportswriter who decides to get a sex change and the toll it takes on his gender-conflicted teenage sons. Murphy will direct the pilot in the summer.

The producer is also already looking toward developing his first series for the Fox net. That project is on the docket for the next development season.

Murphy’s $15 million deal does not factor in the prospect of a sixth season of “Nip/Tuck.” If FX decides to continue the show beyond the 81 episodes that will be completed through five seasons, Murphy stands to make an extra $6 million.

“The most rewarding part of this deal is that I get to work with my two mentors, Peter Liguori and John Landgraf, who’ve been nothing but supportive,” Murphy told Daily Variety. “I like the idea of doing another show for FX and also Fox, where they are also proponents of edgy material. It feels like we’ve kept the family intact.”

A journalist who wrote for magazines including Entertainment Weekly as well as the L.A. Times, Murphy began his series work with the WB dramedy “Popular.” He took a decidedly darker and edgier path with “Nip/Tuck.”

Murphy, who made his feature directing debut on an adaptation of the Augusten Burroughs memoir “Running With Scissors,” has several other high-profile feature assignments in the offing. They include directing Julia Roberts in a Paramount adaptation of the Elizabeth Gilbert memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” and helming Meryl Streep in “Dirty Tricks,” a Paramount Vantage drama about Watergate eccentric Martha Mitchell. Both of those films will be produced by Plan B’s Pitt and Gardner.

Murphy had been courted for an overall TV deal by several studios since December, when his deal with Warner Bros. and FX expired at the completion of the fourth season of “Nip/Tuck.”

“Nip/Tuck” is “one of the most wonderfully strange and original TV series ever produced,” said Landgraf, who noted that as the No. 1 show for three consecutive years in basic cable among young adults, “Nip/Tuck” is also tops in sales revenue.

Walden and Newman lauded Murphy’s “unique vision and distinctive voice” and said the scribe “is exactly the kind of creator you want to be in business with over the long term.”

Liguori, who ran FX when the drama launched in July 2003, called the signing “a great day for Fox.”

Murphy’s deal was brokered by CAA and attorney Craig Emanuel.

(Michael Schneider in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

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