NEW YORK – After a fevered chase by several bidders, Fox 2000 and producer Lynda Obst had taken the lead and were expected to close a mid-six-figure deal to make a movie about the ordeal of Olympic security guard Richard Jewell, sources said.
The effort to hatch a Jewell movie has been engineered by ICM agent Rosalie Swedlin. She put together a package that consists of the life rights of Jewell, his mother Bobi, and the legal team that defended him, headed by attorney Watson Bryant.
The package also includes rights to ”American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell,” an article in the February issue of Vanity Fair written by Marie Brenner. In it, Brenner got exclusive access to Jewell, his family and attorneys, detailing how the life of a simple man was quickly disrupted by the media and the FBI, which hounded Jewell and tore apart his house, but never found any evidence.
Three studios with top-flight producers bid on the rights. In one corner was TriStar, with Illusion’s Oliver Stone and Dan Halsted partnered with Storyline’s Craig Zadan and Neil Meron; HBO had producers Paula Weinstein and Barry Levinson; and Fox 2000 had Obst. Late Friday, sources said that Fox 2000 was close to prevailing over HBO because it was willing to spend slightly more upfront money, and because Jewell and his attorneys were interested in seeing his story made into a feature.
Sources cautioned that no deal had yet been signed, and that Jewell’s representatives were being so cautious that the project could conceivably fall apart. If the deal takes, it will mark the second project for Obst that doesn’t take kindly to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which led much of the Jewell coverage. She’s also the producer of ”Above the Fold,” a look at how respected newspaper editor William Kovach was run out of his job as editor of the paper because the paper’s suddenly aggressive coverage angered local businesses.
It would also mark the second major movie sale for VF’s Brenner, who will become a consultant or producer on the Jewell pic. She wrote a similarly themed story about tobacco whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand, which sold to Disney and is being developed by ”Heat” director Michael Mann.
None of the principals would comment on the pending deal.