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Fox 2000 takes plunge on ‘Fly’

It’s described as “Shine” meets “Rocky.”

Fox 2000 slapped down what sources said was mid-six figures for the pitch “Fly” based on the life story of Olympic swimmer Mel Stewart, a gold-medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Fox took the plunge after a bidding war broke out Wednesday afternoon and ended in a dead heat between Fox and Warner Bros.

Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz’s Bedford Falls and Jonathan Krane, who represents the pitchman-screenwriter Joel Silverman, will produce the project.

The story follows the life of Stewart, who overcame drug abuse and family problems to become a world-class swimmer specializing in the butterfly stroke. Stewart grew up in the born-again world of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s PTL Club. His mother served as Bakker’s maid and his father was a bodyguard.

Silverman, a onetime freelance sports reporter, met Stewart while interviewing him for an article for Fitness Swimmer magazine.

Silverman previously sold “Curve” to MGM, and Krane will also produce that project. In addition to swimming, Stewart wrote and directed an independent film “Jesse’s Girl,” which he also financed.

APA’s Justen Dardis negotiated the deal with Fox 2000 exec VP Kevin McCormick. The project was brought to the company by Bedford Falls’ Sarah Kaplan and Suzanne Patmore.

Other companies interested in the pitch were Imagine Entertainment and Touchstone Pictures. Warner Bros.-based producer Robert Lawrence in conjunction New Regency bid against Fox.

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