Fox cashes out for ‘True’ story

Lamb gets seven figures for novel, Demme to produce

In one of its biggest paydays for a book — and in an unusually synergistic move — Twentieth Century Fox has paid a seven-figure upfront fee for film rights to Wally Lamb’s upcoming novel “I Know This Much Is True” with Jonathan Demme’s Clinico Estetico in final talks to produce.

The book is due in bookstores in a few weeks from editor Judith Regan’s imprint at HarperCollins, a sister company to Fox in Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. conglom.

Though Demme is not attached to direct, it is understood that the project was acquired by Fox as a possible directing vehicle for the “Silence of the Lambs” helmer.

Since Demme’s production banner is now based at Universal, it was unclear whether that studio got a look at “I Know This Much” or whether the deal predated Clinico’s recent move to Universal City.

Fox insiders said the studio is looking to the project as a major star vehicle, though no talent is attached at this time.

And despite written protestations issued in April by Lamb’s literary agent Linda Chester asserting that Regan isn’t attached to produce (Daily Variety, April 7), sources at Fox said Regan will share producer credit on the project.

Chester’s letters stemmed from Regan’s prior, unofficial submission of the manuscript to film buyers with a letter outlining her hopes to become the film’s producer.

Under Regan’s deal with HarperCollins, she has permission to get involved on the film side of the books she publishes — as long as the writer agrees.

The 912-page book is about a 40-year-old, emotionally tortured house painter who must cope with and take care of his paranoid schizophrenic, identical twin brother who engages in horrific public self-mutilation.

During this time, the conflicted house painter begins and finishes a search for the twins’ real father and an acceptance of his past and who he has become.

Lamb’s last novel, “She’s Come Undone,” was a bestseller and was sold to producers David Geffen and Bonnie Lee.

At Clinico Estetico, exec Valerie Thomas brought the project in to partners Demme and Ed Saxon.

Fox exec VP Elizabeth Gabler and prexy of production Tom Rothman will oversee the pic for the studio.

Brillstein Grey literary department execs Kassie Evashevski and Michael Siegel brokered the deal on behalf of Lamb’s New York agents Chester and Laurie Fox.