Fox buys ‘Shelling’; Thomas to produce

Tom Rothman’s 20th Century Fox film division has optioned the rights to “The Shelling of Beverly Hills,” a new manuscript by Martyn Burke, for “Dr. Dolittle” helmer Betty Thomas and her partner Jenno Topping to produce.

“Shelling,” the fifth book written by the Canuck scribe, is a satire about a Beverly Hills socialite trying to take over the town’s high society during a time of civil insurrection in the city.

Burke will pen the adaptation of the book, which has no publishing deal at this time. Burke’s other books all have been published by separate publishers, including his last tome, “Tiara,” which was published by HarperCollins in 1995. Burke’s lit agent in New York, Ginger Barber of the Virginia Barber Agency, will be submitting “Shelling” to publishers in the coming weeks.

Fox senior VP Sanford Panitch will oversee the project for the studio.

Burke’s novel “Ivory Joe” currently is in development with Mel Gibson’s Icon Prods. The scribe — a screenwriter-director whose credits include writing and directing “Power Play” and “The Clown Murders,” and penning “Top Secret!” among others — also co-wrote with Pen Densham the screenplay “American Primate,” which is in development at TriStar for Densham to direct.

Burke was repped on the deal by Jim Rosen of ICM. Thomas and Topping were repped by ICM’s Richard Feldman.

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