Helgeland has $5 mil payday for Sony ‘Knight’

Scribe doubling as helmer

Brian Helgeland on Monday signed a $5 million deal with Columbia Pictures for “A Knight’s Tale.” The scribe will helm and co-produce (with partner Tim Van Rellim) the pic, though insiders said much of the hefty figure is for his script.

Helgeland, who won an Oscar as co-scripter of “L.A. Confidential,” qualifies for Sony’s much-touted writer’s program, which awards 2% of a picture’s gross receipts to eligible scribes. But insiders maintained that Helgeland’s deal is distinct from that scheme, instead incorporating a tripartite writing, directing and producing fee, under which he will receive backend points far in excess of Sony’s standard two-point arrangement.

“Knight’s” is essentially a go picture at Columbia, slated to begin production this April, with Col execs understood to be aiming for an early 2001 release.

Script follows a peasant squire with a yen for jousting. When his master croaks prematurely, the squire assumes the identity of the deceased knight. He enlists Chaucer — fallen on hard times, as it’s prior to his breakout hit “The Canterbury Tales” — who’s supporting himself by forging noblemen’s genealogy papers. With the needed scrolls, the squire is able to become a magnificent jouster.

“Knight’s Tale” will be shepherded by Columbia Pictures exec veepee of production Matt Tolmach, and co-produced by Van Rellim and Helgeland. (The two are also teaming on Helgeland’s “Sin Eater” at 20th Century Fox.)

Van Rellim is also exec producing Fine Line’s Cameron Diaz starrer, “Invisible Circus.”

Helgeland and Curtis Hanson nabbed Oscars for their 1997 adaptation of James Ellroy’s novel “L.A. Confidential.” He also scripted “Conspiracy Theory” scribe and directed the Mel Gibson vehicle “Payback.”

Only weeks ago, he inked at CAA, which repped him in the deal. He is managed by Missy Malkin of Malkin Management and by attorney Alan Wertheimer at Armstrong, Hirsch, Jackoway, Tyerman & Wertheimer.