Nicholson, Nolte, Mancuso team

NICHOLSON, NOLTE, MANCUSO TEAM: ICM is going out to the studios this week with a high-profile movie package, with Jack Nicholson attached to direct, Nick Nolte to star and ex-Paramount boss Frank Mancuso to produce. The script, under the working title “A Strange New World,” was penned by Nolte’s “Prince of Tides” writing princess Betsy Johnston and is described as a road picture with a romantic theme.

Mancuso said while this first producing outing “is not necessarily a career choice,” he couldn’t resist the offer when Johnson, Nolte and Nicholson “called me and said they’d love me to get involved.” The former Paramount chief acknowledged, “After all these years of greenlighting projects, it will be interesting to actually produce one,” particularly with the likes of Nicholson, et al., “who are all good friends.” A lead actress role remains to be cast.

Mancuso said that this picture won’t go until Nolte and Nicholson complete their respective commitments on Paramount’s “Blue Chips” and Columbia’s “Wolf.”

Mancuso, who’s been extremely low-key since leaving Paramount two years ago, says he hasn’t decided his next career move yet. He’s occupying the former offices of former MGM owner Giancarlo Parretti at Dino De Laurentiis’ HQ in Beverly Hills. His son, Frank Jr., is also housed there under his own film banner, Hometown Films.

Insisting he has no plans to collaborate with his son, so far, Mancuso said he has been “exploring a lot of options,” which range from “something different to do” to “going back to something I know. … I haven’t shut anything off.”

Well, Frank that about covers it. And when you finally decide what to do next , please call.

WHAT UP? QUOTE UP!: Paramount, notorious for being tight-fisted with a talent buck, is paying Nick Nolte $ 7 million to star in “Blue Chips”; he made $ 4 million for “The Prince of Tides.”

Originally, the studio offered the actor $ 4.5 million. The actor’s ICM reps reportedly came back and said the actor would accept the gig for $ 7 mil. Done deal.

NICK AND JULIA? The ultra-hot Nolte is being courted to play opposite Julia Roberts in “I Love Trouble,” the romantic comedy that Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer wrote and will direct and produce for Touchstone in conjunction with Joe Roth’s Caravan Pix. Nolte met with Roberts last week and is expected to make a decision today.

Meanwhile, Hollywood Pix reportedly has offered Roberts $ 8 million to star in “Between the Wars,” a romantic adventure set during the Spanish Civil War which Arthur Kopit rewrote from an original by Ellen Kesend. Fred Pierce is attached to produce. If Julia, who’s yet to read the script, accepts the role and the project goes, Hollywood would likely put it through Andy Vajna’s Cinergi Prods., with which it has a financing/distribution deal.

SCHEINMAN UP TO BAT: It can’t be easy following in the footsteps of his acclaimed partner Rob Reiner, but Castle Rock principal Andy Scheinman will get his turn at bat with “Little Big League,” to which Dustin Hoffman was once tentatively attached as director.

Castle Rock partner Martin Shafer, who insists he has no desire to direct, said the company has been looking for a directorial vehicle for Scheinman for the past couple of years. Scheinman has been Reiner’s creative partner for nearly 10 years, producing all of his pix except for “This Is Spinal Tap.” Schaffer said Scheinman has worked with Reiner on scripts, casting, etc., and “is really much more a creative guy with greater instincts than a typical producer.”

While Shafer writes it off as merely “coincidental,” Scheinman’s brother, Adam Scheinman, did a major rewrite on “Little Big League,” from an original script by Greg Pincus about an 11-year-old boy who inherits the Kansas City Royals ball club from his grandpa and names himself manager. Shafer said Castle Rock is targeting “Big League” for an early August start.

GROSS GROSSED OUT OVER ‘MUSKETEERS’: DISH hears that screenwriter Joel Gross was really peeved that TriStar chairman Mike Medavoy publicly cited the studio’s unhappiness with his script as the reason for “The Three Musketeers” production going south. Even TriStar sources maintain that the studio, which had a director but no actors lined up, clearly pulled the plug because Disney beat it to the punch by casting Chris O’Donnell and “young swords” Kiefer Sutherland and Charlie Sheen in its version.

Immediately after reading Gross’ rewrite just over a week ago, TriStar brass reportedly called the writer to tell him how much they loved his script and were planning to go out to actors with it.

TriStar was so high on Gross’ first rewrite of “Musketeers” back in November that the studio made him a two-picture deal with an optional third project. Under the arrangement, he’s rewriting “Zorro” for Steven Spielberg, then “The Bystander” for Jerry Zucker to direct. The optional projectis “Taking Liberty” for Martin Campbell to direct and Gale Anne Hurd to produce.

But by last Monday, the studio started hedging, and by Tuesday, production plans were scrapped.

“Medavoy didn’t make pay-or-play deals with actors months ago when he should have. … He then got spooked by Disney and unfairly shifted the blame onto Joel ,” a source close to the situation said. Medavoy was quoted here last week as saying, “We don’t have a script that we’re happy with.”

Yesterday, Medavoy told DISH that everything’s OK now with Gross. “He was somewhat angry at me, but we talked (Friday) and everything’s fine.” The TriStar topper said, “It’s not his fault. We just didn’t have time to get the script good enough to go to actors.”

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