Par, Rudin, Soderbergh put on ‘Dunces’ caps

Paramount Pictures producer Scott Rudin has completed a $ 1 million acquisition of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “A Confederacy of Dunces” from Susan O’Connell and John Langdon, sources said Friday.

The movie is packaged with “sex, lies and videotape” helmer Steven Soderbergh , “Accidental Tourist” screenwriter Frank Galati and producer Scott Kramer.

Executive producers will be Rudin, S.F.-based producer O’Connell, and Langdon , a Texas high-tech research and development expert and entrepreneur who has controlled the rights for the last 12 years to the novel by John Kennedy Toole. “Confederacy” stands to become the first movie produced by Langdon’s Bumbershoot Prods.

A character study about a befuddled, intellectual fat guy driven by his overbearing mother to petty theft, madness and watching all-day beach-party movies, “Confederacy” has been put on track for early 1994 production.

With an estimated $ 12 million budget, the pic looms as a fall 1994 release for Paramount.

Six months in the making, the deal is a major package for William Morris Agency and movie agent Pat Dollard, who represented Soderbergh, Gilati, Rudin and Kramer.

Upfront, back-end

The deal includes Rudin’s $ 1 million purchase for Par, more than $ 1 million in upfront fees for the director and producers and lucrative back-end agreements for creative talent.

Negotiating the deal on behalf of Par were chairman Sherry Lansing, president of production John Goldwyn and Richard Fowkes.

After Toole’s suicide, his mother Thelma worked indefatigably to get the semi-autobiographical novel printed.

Earlier tries

After it was published by the University of Louisiana Press, “Confederacy” garnered a groundswell of support from college students, intellectuals and the publishing world. It has sold more than 1 million copies domestically.

There have been previous cracks at filming “Confederacy.” Mike Medavoy, currently TriStar Pictures chairman, tried to get the project off the ground at Orion Pictures with director Harold Ramis.

“Confederacy” has long been a passion for Rudin: When the Orion deal fell through, Ramis eventually took the project to 20th Century Fox, where Rudin immediately snapped up the property when he headed up the company’s production arm in the late 1980s.

Musical ‘Dunces’

Screenwriter Gilati has already written a musical stage version of “Confederacy,” which is produced each year in New Orleans, the setting for the work. Soderbergh’s “King of the Hill,” based on A.E. Hochner’s novel, is set for a September release; it stars Jesse Bradford, Elizabeth McGovern, Karen Allen, Spalding Gray and Jeroen Krabbe.

Rudin has previously delivered such Paramount hits as “The Firm” and “The Addams Family.”

Paramount has become among Hollywood’s most aggressive competitors for the big-money names and projects.

The “Confederacy” deal underscores Par’s bid to keep hot talent busy — including the luring of director Frank Marshall and producer Kathleen Kennedy from the the Disney-distributed “Smoke and Mirrors.”

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