HILL MAY BE THE HAWK:
Steve James and Peter Gilbert are about to unveil the Hollywood Pictures biopic “Prefontaine” at Sundance, where their documentary “Hoop Dreams” took flight. They’re also hatching hoop dreams of another kind. The duo made a deal with DreamWorks and producer Gary David Goldberg on a biopic of Basketball Hall of Famer Connie Hawkins, and their hoop dream is that Detroit Pistons superstar Grant Hill will play Hawkins. The biopic is based on “Foul,” the 1971
bestselling biography by David Wolf. James and Gilbert will co-write the script, James will direct and Gilbert will produce with Goldberg. James and Gilbert have been interested in the Hawkins story for years, and originally tried to develop
it at Savoy Pictures. That became an airball when Savoy folded, and they waited for the rights to lapse before making a new deal at DreamWorks. The duo is
managed by Dave Phillips and their deal was negotiated by attorney John Sloss, with William Morris’ Mel Berger repping Wolf and UTA’s Jeremy Zimmer repping Goldberg who played high school hoops with Hawkins. Hawkins’ transformation from Harlem-bred playground legend to pro basketball star turned into a nightmare when he was wrongly implicated in a point-shaving scandal while a freshman at the U. of Iowa. Hawkins hadn’t even played an official game for the college, and there was no evidence he took a cent. Still, he was uneducated and shy, so when told to admit to wrongdoing, Hawkins did as he was told. He was then promptly dumped by the school and denied entry into the NBA. “It isn’t only about a kid
from the ghetto trying to make something of his life through basketball, which is a story we know a fair amount about, but Connie was this shy person who was only confident on the basketball court,” said James. “The social forces around him ruined him until, at a certain point in his life, he took control. The pinnacle dramatic moment came not on the court, but in a courtroom, trying to get reinstated in the NBA.” Though a forerunner of agile, high-flying dunkers
like Michael Jordan or Hill, Hawkins was forced to play the fool as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, and then starred for the American Basketball Assn.’s Pittsburgh Condors. That team’s owners were lawyers, and they led the legal battle to clear Hawkins’ name so he could realize his dream of playing in the NBA. Though he was past his prime, Hawkins became a superstar and was voted into
the Hall of Fame. James and Gilbert met Grant considered the heir to Air Jordan as basketball’s next superstar while shooting a Fila shoe commercial, and there they first discussed the prospect of his playing Hawkins. “He’d be perfect, because we need somebody with the size and agility of Connie,” said Gilbert. “Grant has that, and like Connie, he can play a quiet and shy guy. We feel we
need a real ballplayer for this, someone you can believe is a physically dominant presence on the basketball court.” RESURRECTING WINCOTT:
Fresh from playing Eddie Murphy’s nemesis in “Metro,” Michael Wincott has taken director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s invite and signed on to play a starring role in Fox’s “Alien Resurrection.” Sources said he’s been drafted to play Elgyn, captain of the ship on which the action takes place. He’ll join Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder, Brad Dourif, J.E. Freeman and Ron Perlman. The director offered Wincott the role months ago, but the was reluctant. The film began shooting, and Wincott finally signed on and starts work almost immediately. He’s repped by ICM’s Steve Dontanville and managed by Joan Hyler.
SHAMES SETS SCREEN SALES:
Author Laurence Shames, whose Florida-based mob novels have been likened to Elmore Leonard’s, has notched two screen deals. Shames’ next novel, “Virgin
Heat,” has been optioned by Columbia and James L. Brooks’ Gracie Films, which hopes to make it a starring vehicle for Tea Leoni. The deal was spearheaded by
Gracie’s Bridget Johnson and Sterling Lord Literistic’s Jody Hotchkiss. The novel will be published in March by Hyperion, about a New York Mafia princess who travels to Key West to find the man of her dreams. He’s hiding out as a bartender after ratting out her mob boss father, who wants to erase him permanently. Shames has also made a deal with Paramount on his 1992 novel “Florida Straits” with Howard Baldwin and Andy Meyer, who’ve brought in “Coach” creator Barry Kemp. It’s about a Gotham mobster who’s half Italian, half Jewish and therefore can’t become a made man. He moves to Key West to start his own mob, only to clash with the Colombian gangs already running things. Shames has three other novels up for grabs, with “Tropical Depression” available again after a Touchstone option lapsed. Shames’ literary agent is Stuart Krichevsky.
THE WRIGHT STUFF:
“Basquiat” star Jeffrey Wright has emerged as the frontrunnerm for the key role of Henry Burton, the narrator in Joe Klein’s bestselling novel “Primary Colors,” which Mike Nichols will direct with John Travolta and possibly
Emma Thompson. Burton, the grandson of a slain black civil rights leader, becomes the key player in the presidential campaign of the remarkably Clinton-like White House aspirant Jack Stanton. Wright, who is repped by CAA’s Scott Landis, just completed work in Sidney Lumet’s “Critical Care” for Live.