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Par buys ‘Kiss,’ thinks franchise

Paramount, a studio always on the lookout for franchise opportunities, has found one, paying a mid-six against low-seven figure sum for James Patterson’s novel “Kiss the Girls.”

David Brown and Joe Wizan will co-produce the adaptation of the upcoming Little, Brown book, which was written by the chairman of the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson as a sequel to the runaway bestseller “Along Came a Spider.” Though no screen sale was ever completed for the first book, the studio has bought control of the series and will conceivably have a shot at the first book.

The sale was concluded Tuesday at midnight, days after International Creative Management agent Tom Strickler personally drove around to each studio to hand deliver the manuscript to producers. Paramount beat outseveral suitors, with Strickler brokering in conjunction with Gotham-based agent Richard Pine.

“I finished the manuscript, 600-plus pages, at 2 a.m., and I couldn’t wait for the sun to rise so I could start pounding away to buy it,” said Brown. “I know my partner on the other coast felt the same way.”

It’s the second Patterson book adaptation for producers Brown and Wizan, who are developing “The Midnight Club” with Sylvester Stallone in mind to play a heroic cop who, paralyzed from the waist down by a crime boss, overcomes his handicap to get revenge.

“Kiss the Girls” continues the tale of Alex Cross, a D.C.-based black detective with a Ph.D in psychology and a widower with two kids who was introduced in “Along Came a Spider.” In both books, Cross hunts down serial killers. The first book sold 200,000 hardcover copies, 1.8 million paperback; “Kiss the Girls” is set for a hardcover first printing of 500,000. Patterson is under contract to write two more Cross novels and has turned down about 20 purchase or option offers for “Along Came a Spider.”

Reached at J. Walter Thompson, Patterson said he writes each morning for two hours before showing up at the office. “It’s nice that, unlike advertising, there aren’t 10 people telling me how it ought to go.” Patterson understands, however, that in Hollywood, there will probably be twice that many people telling him how the movie should go. He’s ready.

“That’s a whole different business, and I feel that the book is the book, the movie something else. I would never pull an Anne Rice,” he said, referring to the “Interview With the Vampire” author’s public criticism of the decision to cast Tom Cruise in the Warner Bros. film of her book.

CARREY-OVER: Jim Carrey is quickly becoming one of the best paid men in Hollywood. Carrey, whose success in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” led to a $ 7 million deal for New Line’s “Dumb and Dumber,” is now looking at similar paydays if a deal is closed with New Line on the comedy “The Best Man.”

Carrey is expected to be huge after this summer’s “The Mask,” and it looks like similar paydays await for sequels to on that film as well as “Ace,” for which Morgan Creek is expected to reward him well above the $ 750,000 he was due to receive in the original deal.

STAR SEARCH: The rumor about Hollywood Pictures is true. The Disney shingle, capably steered by Ricardo Mestres, continues to assemble an enviable batch of projects. In the latest coup, the studio beat out a dozen suitors for the screen services of Michael Richards, best known as

Kramer on “Seinfeld.” Richards has agreed to spend his hiatus starring in “Unstrung Heroes,” to be directed by Diane Keaton from a Richard Lagravenese script.

In the film, Richards will play an eccentric uncle who takes in a teenage nephew who’s distraught over his father’s death. Andie MacDowell will play the kid’s mother. Richards seems destined to work with Keaton: They were attached at one time on the Amblin project “Pet People,” but that pairing seemed hamstrung when Keaton landed “Unstrung.”

Per Andy Cohen, his agent at Agency for the Performing Arts, Richards chose the film over “a couple dozen” offers because “it not only gives him the chance to do physical comedy but is a strong dramatic role as well.”

In another fast-forming project, Hollywood Pictures is still working to get Warren Beatty aboard as the sub captain in the Tony Scott-directed “Crimson Tide ,” which will be a Simpson-Bruckheimer production. The hope is to continue momentum from an upcoming release slate that includes the steamy Bruce Willis pic “The Color of Night,” and Robert Redford’s “Quiz Show.”

SEDER SALE: Who says that business comes to a halt in Hollywood during Passover? After William Morris agent Mel Berger sold a 100-page book proposal from Phillip Finch to Bantam for $ 175,000, he was sufficiently hyped to send it to West Coast colleague Amy Schiffman to test the movie crowd.

Finch is writing “f2f,” about a serial killer who stalks victims through a computer network. Schiffman said she got the call from Touchstone senior veep Jane Goldenring while each was observing Passover, and the deal was pretty much done by late Sunday night, with Touchstone’s Donald DeLine, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and his senior veep Lucas Foster all interrupting their holidays to complete a preemptive buy.

“Good thing it’s a holiday where doing business isn’t forbidden,” said Schiffman. “If it had been Yom Kippur, who knows what we’d have done.”

Touchstone bought it for Simpson and Bruckheimer for $ 250,000 against $ 650, 000, a figure that includes Finch’s screenwriting services. It’s Finch’s third movie sale. “Sugarland” was optioned by Norman Jewison, while “Paradise Junction ,” originally optioned by Lee Rich and Clint Eastwood, has been re-optioned by director Joe Ruben and producer John Markus.

HOLD THE COOKING SHOW: Dolly Parton’s plan to play a cooking show hostess in the fall CBS sitcom “Dixie’s Fixin’s” has been sent back to the kitchen. Parton is now fixing to star in “Heavens to

Betsy,” created by David Babcock (“Herman’s Head”) and inspired by a song Parton wrote.

Stuart Sheslow, the Sandollar TV prexy who has reshaped the series with partner Gail Berman in conjunction with Disney TV’s Dean Valentine, said that Parton will now play a singer whose big chance to open for Siegfried & Roy is spoiled when she gets killed instead. Up in heaven, she’s given a choice: Go to hell, or go back to her old hometown, where she was a troublemaker named Hurricane Betsy, and redeem herself.

“She can go to hell or make amends, and she chooses to run this local choir of misfits,” said Sheslow, who maintained that “Dixie’s Fixins” was unfixable. A script was turned in by “Married … With Children” vet Ellen Fogel, but rejected. “She worked hard, but missed,” he said. “David went to work on this thing and hit a home run. She gets to play an angel with a dirty face, and she gets to sing.” Ironically, the plot line is similar to a pilot idea that didn’t fly, in which Parton would have played a gospel singer. “This is a concept she’s been trying to develop for four or five years, but that other script was more dramatic, and nothing like this one,” Sheslow said.

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