New Line in orbit with AMG on pic

Management group to tap talent roster

New Line has made an outright purchase of the feature film rights to bestselling novelist Tess Gerritsen’s upcoming spacebound medical thriller/love story, “Gravity,” with $1 million up front for the scribe and another $500,000 once the film is produced.

Artists Management Group, the 3-month-old management-production company whose partners are Michael Ovitz, Rick Yorn and Julie Silverman-Yorn, will produce the pic, although the firm’s deal is not yet finalized.

While no writer is attached yet, New Line and AMG view “Gravity” as a major event pic and look to move quickly to put a scribe and all the other elements in place, with an eye toward releasing the film in the summer of 2000 or 2001.

Packaging with home team

AMG will likely package the project with as many of the banner’s clients as possible; Rick Yorn told Daily Variety that he expects to have most of the major above-the-line talent in place within the coming weeks.

The “Gravity” manuscript was brought to Yorn’s and AMG production topper Cathy Schulman’s attention Tuesday by the Renaissance Agency’s Joel Gotler, who brokered the deal on behalf of Gerritsen’s Gotham lit agent, Meg Ruley of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.

On Wednesday, Yorn and Schulman took the project to two studios, Fox and New Line, whose Gotham scout, Renee Witt, originally brought the project into the company.

At New Line, prexy of production Michael De Luca read the galley, which De Luca describes as “a story with a really good central rooting character and with great commercial potential.”

De Luca then made a preemptive bid to secure the project late Wednesday. He and New Line VP of production Donna Langley will oversee development of the project for the studio.

Bugs in space

“Gravity” tells the story of an ER doctor, who has always dreamed of being an astronaut, and his estranged wife, a physician conducting dangerous medical experiments in space.

Things go terribly wrong for the space mission when a colony of single-cell organisms begin rapidly multiplying, killing most of the crew in a hideous way. Back on Earth, the ER doc tries desperately to discover the secret to stopping the vicious organisms, while his wife musters all of her medical expertise to contain the epidemic and keep herself alive.

Pocket Books is slated to publish “Gravity” in September, with a first printing in hardcover of 150,000.

A golden ‘Harvest’

“Gravity” is Gerritsen’s fourth novel and the second book in the former internist’s $4.5 million, two-book deal with the Simon & Schuster imprint. Her debut novel, 1996’s organ transplant thriller “Harvest,” spent many weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in both hardcover and paperback. Her subsequent books were “Life Support” and “Blood Stream.”

“Harvest” was optioned for $500,000 and is currently in development at Paramount with producer Daniel Melnick.

“Gravity” marks one of the first projects AMG has set up at a major studio since opening its doors in January. Earlier this month, AMG entered into talks with Paramount to set up Tom Clancy’s current bestseller “Rainbow Six,” which Clancy — an AMG client — and AMG would produce (Daily Variety, March 5).

(Benedict Carver contributed to this report.)