Fincher mulls ‘Night’ cap

While David Fincher awaits a final commitment from Brad Pitt that will get “The Fight Club” into the ring early next year, the director has also begun negotiations to direct “The Night Watchman,” an original script by “L.A. Confidential” author James Ellroy for New Regency and producer Bruce Berman. Warner Bros. will distribute. Fincher has long planned to team his “Seven” star Pitt with Edward Norton in “The Fight Club,” which producer Art Linson is putting together at Fox 2000. “The Night Watchman” would most likely follow, unless the other film unexpectedly was delayed. Pitt, who plans to make “The Fight Club” his next after “Meet Joe Black,” is waiting to see a final draft before going pay or play. While that’s the most likely scenario, Fincher, a big fan of Ellroy’s novels, is in the process of deal discussions that would allow him to work with Ellroy on developing “The Night Watchman” with an eye toward his next available slot.

“The Night Watchman” is a murder mystery set in post-O.J. Simpson L.A. It has elements of “Unforgiven” and “The Verdict,” with strong roles for the cop investigating a murder and the villain. Fincher was the first director approached, and he sparked to the material. Though both studio and the director’s reps cautioned that no deal is in place, neither denies they are negotiating.

It is the second script by the novelist, who wrote “The Plague Season” for Universal and “The Jackal” producers Jim Jacks and Sean Daniel. Interestingly, WB initially passed on “The Night Watchman” when Ellroy first pitched it, but Regency’s Arnon Milchan put up his own money to pay the six-figure script fee and keep it in the WB fold. A Fincher commitment would likely make it producer Berman’s first go picture since starting his Plan B shingle when he exited his post as Warner Bros. president of production. Fincher’s repped by CAA’s Joe Rosenberg and Richard Lovett.

WOODEN IT BE NICE: A Disney dream came true for David Stern, a 25-year-old screenwriter who hatched an idea to tell the Pinocchio story from the vantage point of the puppetmaker. Stern, bent on telling the story about a man’s quest to become a real father instead of a wooden puppet’s quest to become a real boy, took “Gepetto” to Stephen Schwartz, the Oscar-winning lyricist of “Pocahontas” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” as well as DreamWorks’ “Prince of Egypt.” With Endeavor’s Richard Weitz and Corner of the Sky’s Dave Phillips, who manages both the scribe and the lyricist, they made a substantial six-figure deal with Walt Disney TV prexy Charles Hirschhorn. Schwartz has already written some of the songs, with an eye toward making it next November’s sweeps follow-up to the “Wonderful World of Disney” presentation of “Cinderella.” While Disney had the smarts to pact for the highly rated “Cinderella” after CBS dropped it, this would be its first original live-action musical done from scratch for the Sunday-night slot. The studio already is canvassing for an actor to play the title role. The telefilm will be produced by Mike Karz and Jim Pentecost.

SPORTS PITCHING: Horseshoe Bay partners Mark Steven Johnson and Gary Foster have made a six-figure buy of “Fanatics,” a sports-themed comedy to be scripted by Bob Hilgenberg and Rob Muir from a pitch. The deal was made by Horseshoe Bay’s Josie Rosen and Paradigm agent Sandy Weinberg. The pitch falls under Horseshoe’s overall deal with Disney under David Vogel. It’s not surprising Horseshoe would go the sports route, as Foster produced the Ron Shelton-directed Kevin Costner comedy “Tin Cup.” For the writers, it’s their fourth successful pitch. They set up “Small World,” a pitch at Fox with producer Chuck Gordon, “The Scared Guys,” a pitch at TriStar with John Baldecci and Laurence Mark producing, and “Living Legends,” a pitch being developed at Universal by the Bubble Factory and Diane Keaton’s Blue Relief Prods.

THE OTHER PACK PROJECT: While Warner Bros. wants Martin Scorsese and Tom Hanks for its Dean Martin biopic, its Time Warner cousin HBO is working on its own wish list for “Rat Pack,” its Rob Cohen-directed film about the kinship among Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. Dish hears HBO’s trying to tempt Chazz Palminteri to play Martin, Aidan Quinn to play Sinatra and Don Cheadle to play Davis. No commitment yet from any of the actors, but HBO’s growing ability to attract feature-caliber stars caused a ruckus between HBO and WB. WB has had Nick Pileggi developing the Martin biopic with Scorsese and Hanks in mind for nearly a year, and feared that the HBO film would steal its thunder.

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