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‘Odd Couple’ sequel set

Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, first seen at each other’s throats in a New York City flat more than 30 years ago, will now see if they can live together as in-laws as they reunite in Los Angeles.

Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon are in final negotiations to team up again in a sequel to the comedy “The Odd Couple” for Paramount Pictures, sources said. The two actors will re-team with Neil Simon and “Grumpier Old Men” director Howard Deutch to bring the Simon-scripted comedy sequel to the screen. The studio has targeted a June 9 start. Oddly enough, no producer is set.

Don’t expect the Pigeon sisters, Speed or Murray the cop in the sequel. “The Odd Couple 2” introduces new charac-ters and centers on the wedding of Felix’s son and Oscar’s daughter. The story follows the mismatched pair (now separated) as they meet in Los Angeles and have to suffer one another as they drive to the desert, where the wed-ding is to take place.

The move is a coup for Paramount and somewhat of a hit in the mid-section for Warner Bros. and producer John Davis. When word came that Simon was ready to turn in a script on “The Odd Couple,” Davis began rallying Warner Bros. to move forward on “Grumpiest Old Men,” which would be the third installment of the successful franchise.

Attentions turned

Warner Bros. then stepped up to the plate to reactivate “Grumpiest Old Men,” which it had put on the back burner due to the lackluster box office performance of its holiday release “My Fellow Americans,” starring Lem-mon and James Garner. However, the possibility of “Grumpiest” getting to the cameras wavered when Deutch was asked to defer part of his directing fee. After that, all parties turned their attention to “The Odd Couple 2.” Deutch is now finalizing a deal for Paramount.

Lemmon and Matthau had been interested in working together again, given the recent success of the “Grumpy” series. Paramount studio chairman Sherry Lansing and motion picture group president John Goldwyn began thinking seriously about an “Odd Couple” sequel last summer (Daily Variety, July 23, 1996).

“The Odd Couple,” based on Simon’s hit Broadway play, was brought to the screen for Paramount in 1968 with Matthau re-creating his stage role as the slob journalist Madison and Lemmon stepping fresh into the role of the anal-retentive do-gooder Unger.

10th collaboration

The sequel will mark Matthau and Lemmon’s 10th collaboration. The comedy team first starred together in 1966 in “The Fortune Cookie” and then joined together in two other Billy Wilder films, “Buddy, Buddy” and “The Front Page.” Matthau also starred in Lemmon’s first directorial effort, “Kotch,” in 1973. Lemmon and Matthau also starred in Charles Matthau’s “The Grass Harp” and they both appeared in “JFK.” The comedy duo found their audience again in 1993 when they starred as neighbors who feud over a beautiful widow (Ann-Margret) for “Grumpy Old Men” and followed that a year later with “Grumpier Old Men.”

Lemmon and Matthau next star in 20th Century Fox’s “Out to Sea,” which bows Memorial Day.

Matthau is repped by WMA’s Leonard Hirshan and Lemmon is repped by CAA’s Fred Specktor and Keith Addis at Addis/Wechsler. Simon is repped by ICM’s Jeff Berg and Jim Wiatt and Deutch is repped by Wiatt and Richard Feldman.

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