‘Blackout’ awakens at Miramax; Hammer hit

'Blackout' awakens at Miramax; Hammer hit

BROTHERS BACK ‘BLACKOUT’: “Blackout,” the drama written by John Dahl and his brother, Rick, has landed at Miramax Films for Dahl to direct next April. Dahl, who helmed the acclaimed noir thrillers “Red Rock West” and “The Last Seduction,” seemed to have the film ready to go at Phoenix, but when that stalled, the Dahl brothers jumped at a last seduction staged by the Weinstein brothers, as Miramax cochairmen Harvey and Bob landed the pic.

“Blackout” is the story of a violent criminal who contracts a severe case of amnesia during a prison break. He befriends a woman and her son, but the past, and his former bad guy pals who want to know where he hid money, are closing in fast.

“John and Rick have proven themselves to be masters of noir, and this script is one amazing rollercoaster ride,” Harvey Weinstein said. Sources said Miramax wasted little time, staging a reading at headquarters Wednesday, with Robert De Niro among those reading. Dahl’s repped by UTA’s Marty Bauer and John Lesher, and Miramax execs Paul Webster, John Logigian and Jon Gordon sealed the deal.

IT’S HAMMER TIME FOR ARMAND: Though Armand Hammer was known during his life as the head of Occidental Petroleum, a world famous industrialist and philanthropist, his lasting legacy may well be as a con man and Soviet spy who lived a life of lies that included keeping mistresses, and power plays for personal gain. That’s the picture painted in Edward J. Epstein’s new Random House expose, “Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer,” which has been acquired for the screen in a mid-six figure deal made by Lumiere Films CEO Randolph Pitts and president of production Lila Cazes.

Cazes, the catalyst behind “Leaving Las Vegas,” said Hammer is perfect movie material. “He’s really the Citizen Kane for today, and this is the ultimate tale of an immoral, lying and corrupt man who never paid a price for his misdeeds,” she said.

That’s not entirely true, because Hammer took great pains to whitewash his life in order to leave a rosy legacy. But now Epstein’s given him a posthumous pounding. CAA’s Bob Bookman brokered the screen deal. Cazes said Lumiere will fully finance the Hammer pic, just as it did in the case of “Leaving Las Vegas” and the upcoming Paul Schrader adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s “Touch.” She’s looking for a writer.

SEINFELD PONDERS ANOTHER YEAR: Though co-creator Larry David has departed, “Seinfeld” has not only weathered his absence, but held its place as TV’s top-rated sitcom. Now that Jerry Seinfeld has proven he can capably steer the ship solo, speculation has begun on whether he brings the show back for season nine. Officially, Seinfeld said no decision has been made yet, and last year he didn’t tell NBC until around January.

But Dish hears he’s begun talking to his costars about another year. While Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Michael Richards mull the offer, one thing is certain: they’ll get gigantic and well-earned raises if they continue. Dish hears they’re each earning about $125,000 an episode, but don’t get a piece of the $3 million an episode Castle Rock and Seinfeld earn from the reruns from syndication.

If NBC wants its top-rated comedy back, the web will have to pay them as high as $300,000 an episode, or about $6.6 million apiece for the season, said sources. Bear in mind, however, that some estimates have NBC raking in about $120 million in revenue per season from the show, to say nothing of the importance of holding on to a powerhouse hit show. Seinfeld himself pulls down about $500,000 an episode, sources said, but he’s already made an estimated $40 million on syndication, and would make a ton more if the sitcom goes another 22 episodes.

Word from the set is the cast members still get along, like their jobs, and nobody seems eager to stop. Stay tuned.

STERN’S GRAND PREMIERE PLANS: The rabid fans of Howard Stern once filled Nassau Coliseum — at $25 a ticket — to watch their hero play tennis against his staff members. Now that Stern has made his feature film debut in the adaptation of his bestseller “Private Parts” with director Betty Thomas, Stern has a real reason to pack an arena. Indeed, Dish hears Stern, Paramount Pictures and Rysher Entertainment are exploring plans to hold an unprecedented film premiere on March 11 at Madison Square Garden.

The idea is to charge fans $20 for the privilege of seeing the film three days before its opening, along with live performances from Stern and several bands: AC/DC, Blues Traveler and the Dust Brothers are possibles. If the event comes off, Stern would have the most ambitious movie premiere since Disney screened “Pocahontas” in Central Park.

WOOING JENNY: Armed with little more than a promise she’ll star in a sitcom to be produced by Paramount and MTV Prods., Jenny McCarthy literally had a network prexy on his knees. Dish hears the former Playboy Playmate of the Year just made the rounds of the webs. UPN dangled a 13-episode commitment, a source said, but Fox Network prexy Peter Roth was far more dramatic. McCarthy was brought to Fox in a champagne-stocked limo, with a red carpet rolled out for her through a hallway lined with posters of the blonde, along with Fox staffers cheering her as she made her way to Roth’s office. The capper came when Roth apparently got on his knees to beg her to be part of the network’s fall 1997 schedule. The other webs are panting for McCarthy as well, with Paramount boldly asking for a 22-episode commitment.

LION REDO: Disney is forging ahead with “Simba’s Pride,” the direct-to-video sequel to “The Lion King.” “Talk Radio” star Andy Dick has just signed to voice the villainous Nunka, the son of Scar, in a deal made by UTA’s Tracy Steinsapir. The studio’s been talking to Jennifer Aniston and Sarah Jessica Parker to voice Aisha, the daughter of Simba. Now, it looks like that role will go to Parker, whose beau, Matthew Broderick, is returning as Simba. One potentially racy element to the vid is that Scar’s spawn tries to woo Aisha. Scar and Simba were brothers, of course, and Dish hears the subject of potentially incestuous cartoon lions has been a topic of heated discussion between top Disney execs.