Par in ‘Money’ as DDLC riled

In a bidding process that escalated into an ugly battle with Dino De Laurentiis Communications, Paramount Pictures snatched up John Mattson’s spec script “Milk Money” yesterday for what sources said was an outright purchase price of $ 1.1 million.

Joe Dante is attached to direct the romantic comedy and will produce with his partner Mike Finnell.

Consummation of the deal had DDLC officials up in arms, sources said, because the indie company had put a $ 1 million offer on the table and was never given the opportunity to counter Paramount’s slightly higher bid.

“It was our understanding Dino had an oral agreement that they had taken the script off the market. … Studio chiefs were calling Dino to congratulate him,” a source said. Another source said De Laurentiis was so angered by the sale to Paramount that he has already retained a New York litigator to try to tie up the material.

Another industry source said the screenwriter, who works as a reader at DDLC, made the final decision to sell his script to Paramount on the basis that it is a studio vs. an independent.

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Writers & Artists agent Rema Greer, who negotiated the deal with Par, would only confirm the Paramount sale and declined all other comment yesterday.

Other studios and film companies reportedly were miffed that they were shut out of the bidding, including Warner Bros. and TriStar.

Madonna’s Maverick Picture Co. was submitted the script both as a possible starring vehicle for Madonna and for her company to produce.

While Madonna and her company prexy Ron Rotholz reportedly read and liked the material, Maverick would have been obligated to give it to WB, where the indie has a first-look deal. Rotholz, who had a very early look at the script, would not comment on Madonna’s involvement or interest in the project.

“Milk Money” is about three 12-year-old boys who pool their milk money to go to the big city and buy a hooker so they can see a real live naked woman. The hooker winds up going home with one of the boys, who wants to set her up with his single father.

Yesterday’s deal with Paramount marks a bright spot in the long dry spec market, which has only recently seen a small flurry of activity with such deals as Joe Eszterhas’ sale earlier this month of the two-page outline for “Jade” to Paramount for an aggregate $ 2.5 million and Don Roos’ spec “Boys on the Side” to New Regency Prods. last month for $ 500,000.

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