Whedon wheedles $16 mil Fox overall

Screenwriter Joss Whedon, who created “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” is close to inking a four-year overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV and 20th Century Fox Filmed Entertainment.

Whedon, 33, will create his own production company, called Mutant Enemy Inc., to produce all forms of content for Fox, including animation. The deal is worth $16 million to Whedon, and the cost will be split evenly between the film and TV divisions, sources said.

Whedon also will be hiring a development staff, and Fox is expected to fund the company’s overhead, worth about $1 million a year.

Whedon will write, direct and produce all the films generated by his company, and he’ll executive produce TV projects. Sources said the deal was agreed upon Friday but has not been signed.

Whedon has had a long-standing relationship with Fox in film and TV, and his deal is the latest sign that Fox parent News Corp. is attempting to exploit content across all forms of distribution.

Whedon’s work with Fox includes writing the feature “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” for the studio in 1990. He’s also now executive producer of the critically acclaimed “Buffy” one-hour drama series airing on the WB netlet.

Whedon is the writer of Fox’s feature “Alien Resurrection,” the fourth film in the “Alien” series, which will be released in November. He did an uncredited production rewrite on the Fox hit “Speed” in 1994, and Fox already is in discussions with Whedon about making a fifth “Alien” movie, sources said.

Whedon has, at a very young age, become one of the highest-paid screenwriters in town. He received $1.5 million from Columbia in 1994 for his spec “Afterlife” and he was the writer of Disney’s “Toy Story,” which was nominated for an Academy Award for best screenplay. He also did a production rewrite on “Twister” in 1995, and was hired to punch up the dialogue for U’s “Waterworld.”

Whedon, a third-generation scripter, began his career as a story editor on ABC’s “Roseanne,” where he wrote eight episodes during the show’s second season. His father, Tom, was executive producer of “The Golden Girls,” and his grandfather, John, wrote for “The Donna Reed Show” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” among others.

The deal with Fox was negotiated by Sandy Grushow, president of 20th Century Fox TV, and Tom Rothman, president of production at 20th Century Fox Filmed Entertainment.

Sources said Jorge Saralegui, executive VP of production at Fox, who worked closely with Whedon on “Alien Resurrection,” also was instrumental in cutting the pact.

Repping Whedon were UTA’s Chris Harbert and Marty Bauer, as well as Sam Fischer at Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca & Fischer.

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