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Alphabet soups up skeins

Screenwriter finds niche on the dark side

HOLLYWOOD — Producer Harry Ufland has a pretty good eye for talent, dating back to his days as Martin Scorsese’s agent at the William Morris office in the pre-“Mean Streets” days. Today, Ufland’s eye is focused on screenwriter Evan Dunsky, who, Ufland says, “has two projects with us, but we could do 102.”

Ufland’s appreciation is based on what he calls the former NYU student’s “sense of pushing the envelope” and Dunsky’s skills as “one of the best writers at dark comedies.” That latter aptitude is on blazing display in Dunsky’s directorial debut, the upcoming Lions Gate release “The Alarmist,” which Dunsky adapted from Keith Reddin’s play “Life During Wartime.”

“Alarmist” is as dark as dark comedy gets, chronicling the education and disillusionment of a young security-system salesman jousting with lusty housewives, duplicitous bosses and Barstow, Calif., white-trash relatives. Based on the projects Dunsky has in development, however, it should be just the warmup.

Dunsky reports that, while “temporarily on a break from a blind writing deal at DreamWorks,” he’s toiling on an “art heist” tale drawn from a true story for producer Arnold Kopelson at Fox. Dunsky’s a fan of his lead character, whom he describes as “a total sociopath, cold as ice.”

Also on the boards is “Public Servant,” one of his two Ufland Prods. projects he says is in “active development” at Paramount. Dunsky describes “Servant” as another piece based on real life, this time the tale of the crooked politician who brought down the South Carolina legislature by going undercover for the FBI. “Any time this guy had a choice to take the high road or the low road, he always went low,” Dunsky laughs.

Dunsky’s also in development at Universal with “Playing Dr. Hirschhorn,” another dark comedy for helmer Martin Brest, and simultaneously working with the Terry Southern estate in search of film project material. The works of the late co-writer of the ultimate black comedy, “Dr. Strangelove,” should provide a rich vein of comic misanthropy for Dunsky to mine.

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