TriStar ponies up $ 1 mil for ‘Him’

The long-dormant $ 1 million spec-script market came alive yesterday when TriStar Pictures made a pre-emptive outright purchase of Diane Drake’s romantic comedy “Him.”

TriStar, which snatched up the project after studio chairman Mike Medavoy became interested in the property, is putting it on the fast track for spring ‘ 93 production. The movie will be produced by Sony Pictures Entertainment-based Fried/Woods Films.

The studio hopes to get Julia Roberts, who is currently reading the material, to star in the film.

Described as a cross between “Thelma and Louise” and “Moonstruck,” the story is about a woman chasing and ultimately finding true love in Venice, Italy, while on a trip there with her best friend.

Among other talent being discussed for the project is Demi Moore, for whom both Columbia and Paramount were interested in purchasing the property.

The writer’s agent, Justen Dardis, acknowledged that the script was submitted to representatives for Roberts, Moore, Goldie Hawn, Meg Ryan and Madonna on Tuesday. It began circulating to the studios Wednesday night.

Certain directors, including Norman Jewison, Garry Marshall and Jonathan Lynn , are said also to be reading the material.

The transaction marks the second sale in a week for Dardis, following his $ 400,000-against-$ 500,000 deal for Elisa Bell’s “Thirty Wishes” to Universal for Michael J. Fox to star in and make his feature directorial debut (Daily Variety, Dec. 3).

Unlike the “Wishes” sale, the “Him” transaction “guarantees” his writer client $ 1 million upfront. Drake’s only other deal was an earlier option of her script “Dog Meets Cat” to indie producers. Drake was formerly VP of creative services for Sydney Pollack’s Mirage Prods.

Attorney Linda Lichter, of Lichter, Grossman & Nichols, who helped negotiate the “Him” deal at TriStar, said the sale “may be evidence that the town has money again” and is representative of “the general optimism that seems to be sweeping the country and the box office being strong, not to mention the quality of the script.”

After TriStar exex Chris Lee, Stacey Lassally and Marc Platt read the spec, Dardis and Lichter reportedly were summoned to studio chairman Mike Medavoy’s office. The movie chief reportedly told his team that the duo were not to leave the premises until a deal could be concluded.

Other studios, including Columbia, Touchstone, Warner Bros., Paramount and indie film company Dino De Laurentiis Communications were said to be interested in bidding for the script before TriStar grabbed it off the market.

Former Fox movie chairman Joe Roth, whose indie company Caravan Pictures is newly set up at Disney, is said to also to have pursued the material for Roberts.

“Him” producers Rob Fried and Cary Woods are currently making TriStar’s “So I Married an Ax Murderer” and “Rudy.”