Van Sant, Col ink deal ‘To Die For’

One of Hollywood’s staunchest independents, Gus Van Sant, has reached an agreement with Columbia Pictures to helm screenwriter Buck Henry’s adaptation of the novel “To Die For,” which will likely go into production in the first half of 1994.

“To Die For” has drawn intense interest from a majority of top young female stars, including Jodie Foster, Bridget Fonda, Nicole Kidman, Meg Ryan, Patricia Arquette, Holly Hunter, Mary Louise Parker and Jennifer Jason Leigh, some of whom have already read for the part during auditions.

The film marks a major artistic coup for Columbia, which is coming off a season of bad press and a major exec change.

“To Die For” also marks a major departure for Van Sant, who has carved out a reputation as one of the most intense, provocative and respected independent directors through such features as “Drugstore Cowboy,””My Own Private Idaho” and Fine Line Features’ upcoming “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.”

‘Top Gun II’ on Par tarmac

Paramount Pictures has hired screenwriter Jack Epps Jr. to develop “Top Gun II.” Epps and Jim Cash wrote the original film. Epps, who is in the early stages of writing the sequel, will serve as exec producer and might direct.

Par sources also said that the film’s original producers, Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, will not be involved; however, sources said that the film is being developed by Tom Cruise and his producing partner Paula Wagner at their Par-based company. Cruise is expected to star in the sequel.

John Evan Frook and Andy Marx contributed to this report.

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