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Shadyac, U get ‘Cross’

Novel nabs $500K against $1.25 mil, Smith, Cage may star

NEW YORK — Universal has paid $500,000 against a possible $1.25 million sum for “Cross Dressing,” a new comic novel by Bill Fitzhugh which will be developed by ShadyAcres Entertainment as a potential directing vehicle for Tom Shadyac. The novel will be published by Avon Books next year.

The story concerns twin brothers, one of whom is a coldhearted ad executive who must assume the identity of his recently deceased brother, who happens to be a priest.

The self-centered sinning sib proves ill-suited to wear the collar, especially when he falls head over heels for a nun. The author, who hatched the story with Matthew Scott Hansen, has a knack for turning out photogenic fiction premises. His last novel, “Pest Control,” concerned a bug exterminator who’s wrongly pegged for being a hitman and is himself targeted for extermination by government agents. That novel sold to Warner Bros. and producer Paula Weinstein, who’s developing it as a feature.

Fitzhugh also wrote “The Organ Grinders,” all published by Avon, where he’s edited by Tom Dupree. The project was brought in by U’s Holly Bario and ShadyAcres’s Heather Leyton and Winston Stromberg.

“Cross Dressing” was sold by UTA, which repped the screen rights for literary agent James Vines of the Vines Agency, with UTA repping the director.

Shadyac has been a busy buyer since signing an overall deal with the studio after helming the holiday hit “Patch Adams.” ShadyAcres bought the Greg Longstreet pitch “Karaoke Knight” as a vehicle for Ben Stiller, whose Red Hour shingle will coproduce. Shadyac’s also developing “I Now Pronounce You Joe and Benny,” a comedy about heterosexual firefighters who marry for the insurance benefits.

That Barry Fanaro-scripted comedy could be his next directing project, with Will Smith and Nicolas Cage in talks to play the same sex couple who become a cause celebre.