Civil War epic unites Bender and Houston

'Tuskegee's' Qualles to pen script

Producer Lawrence Bender is joining forces with singer Whitney Houston to mount an untitled Civil War epic from the pen of Paris Qualles, scribe of “The Tuskegee Airmen.”

Bender, Houston and Debra Martin Chase, Houston’s partner at her Touchstone-based Brownhouse Prods., will produce the pic, which is known as the “The Untitled David Sadwar project.” There is no director attached.

Set in the South, pic is based on a true story. Chase described it as “an epic love story between a female slave and an illegitimately born white man named David Sadwar, who legally was classified as a slave in North Carolina.”

Chase said Houston is not eyeing the project as an acting assignment, although she won’t make a final decision until Qualles hands in his script.

Bender, a partner in A Band Apart with director Quentin Tarantino, bought the project as a pitch from Qualles, using his discretionary fund from Disney-owned Miramax Films, where A Band Apart has a first-look deal. The producers paid a low- against mid-six figures for the “Sadwar” pitch.

However, Chase said the filmmakers have not decided whether to finance and produce the pic through A Band Apart’s deal at Miramax or Brownhouse’s arrangement with Touchstone.

According to Chase, who added that she and Houston had wanted to work with Qualles for some time, the screenwriter came across the Sadwar material while researching another project.

The scribe, who received good notices for the HBO-backed “Airmen,” is also at work on a biopic of Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, for Red Wagon Prods.’ Doug Wick and Columbia Pictures.

Houston’s starring roles include “The Bodyguard” and “Waiting to Exhale.” She and Chase formed Brownhouse in January 1996.

Chase has exec produced “Courage Under Fire” and co-produced “The Preacher’s Wife.”

Bender’s many producing credits include “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Fresh,” “Jackie Brown” and “Good Will Hunting.”

Attorney Carlos Goodman represented Bender in the deal; the Major Clients Agency’s David McIlvain repped Qualles.

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