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NBC scares up Wolfe ‘Man’; Obst boards ‘Storm’

NBC and Michael Douglas’ Furthur Films are near a deal to turn the Tom Wolfe novel “A Man in Full” into a four-hour miniseries to air during sweeps in fall 2000, sources said.

The deal’s said to be worth low-seven figures and is near the network record spent to turn a bestselling novel into a four-hour miniseries. It’s believed that record was established when CBS paid $2.1 million for Mario Puzo’s “The Last Don.”

Douglas won’t likely star in the mini, but brings clout with a long producing track record that includes an Oscar for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” NBC, led by West Coast chairman Scott Sassa, was the most aggressive of the bidding networks. The web hopes to heavily promote the mini during its broadcast of the 2000 Summer Olympics.

The deal, being made by Janklow/Nesbit’s Lynn Nesbit and CAA’s Robert Bookman, is expected to be finalized shortly.

“A Man in Full,” about race and class clashes in Atlanta centered on a colorful real estate magnate character, was published to critical acclaim last year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It is Wolfe’s first book since “Bonfire of the Vanities.”

When the book was leaked to top directors and producers months ago, there were no mega-buck feature bites. Producers shied from the storyfor several reasons: The screen version of “Bonfire of the Vanities” was a colossal flop; and the plot of “A Man in Full” was too sprawling for a two-hour pic, with no clearly identifiable heroes.

Wolfe apparently warmed to the idea that his book would be better off being told over two high-profile nights on TV.

PAR, OBST BOARD YACHT DISASTER PIC:Lynda Obst, who hung onto her fixation with true stories when she left journalism for producing, has set up a feature about the horrific storms and rescue operations surrounding the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race in January. An unseasonal and brutal storm broadsided the race and claimed the lives of six sailors and led to the rescue of 55 others who nearly perished in 30-foot waves.

Obst and Paramount have optioned a Bryan Burrough Vanity Fair feature on the macho yacht racers and a rescue effort reminiscent of Sebastian Junger’s “The Perfect Storm,” which is being turned into a feature by Warner Bros. and director Wolfgang Petersen.

“It’s ‘Chariots of Fire’ combined with the most terrifying storm rescue imaginable, with these alpha males from every country trying to establish supremacy, and these great athletes below the decks making it happen,” said Obst, who’ll produce with Rob Legato, who, after doing the special effects on “Titanic,” knows a thing or two about shooting on the water. They’ll hire a writer shortly.

GEORGE SHOW LOOKING BLEAK: John F. Kennedy Jr.’s death dashed a potential TV career that was coming together quickly at Studios USA. Kennedy was far along on plans to turn his George magazine into a syndicated daily newsmagazine on which its telegenic founder would have had some on-air presence.

He hoped the show would bolster the print magazine, though it is now unclear whether plans for the George show will continue. Studios USA Domestic Television president Steve Rosenberg said he and his colleagues were grieving too much to make any decisions. “When you meet someone and spend time with them you don’t consider what it means, you just live it,” said Rosenberg. “Having had what I would consider a tremendous opportunity to develop a relationship with him, I feel not only a tremendous loss for the people who knew him and know what they’re missing, but also those who didn’t have the opportunity to meet him. Regardless of what we were working on and what it could have become, the loss goes way beyond a show and I couldn’t care less about that. He was just a terrific guy.”

CUT QUIBBLE OVER “GAME”: While the Beacon Communications/Universal baseball film “For Love of the Game” is generating strong word of mouth and test scores, rumor is that Kevin Costner recut a version of the Sam Raimi-directed pic and is insisting it be used even though it didn’t test as well as Raimi’s cut.

Beacon chairman Armyan Bernstein, who has been as close to the baseball film as anyone, has heard the rumors. Since the film’s not locked, he said they’re not true, and feels they’re unfair to Costner.

“What we’re doing is challenging each other to find out if it can be a little better, and I think this is an old rap that’s easy to hang on Kevin, but not a fair one,” said Bernstein. “Kevin had director approval, chose Sam, and they’ve done right by each other and been extremely collaborative. Creative contention creates excellence and makes everyone bear down harder. But it’s not a duel, and in fact, Sam is in the editing room right now, and Kevin is in Iceland. Ultimately, the final decision will be made by myself and Universal as to what’s best for the film when it opens Sept. 17.”

BUBBLE BUY: Plotlines involving men hermetically safeguarded against germs are surprisingly infectious in Hollywood. Disney made a healthy six-figure preemptive deal for “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble,” a comedy by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio. While the title’s the same as the tearjerking tube film that starred John Travolta, the film’s a lot more in the spirit of the memorable “Bubble Boy” episode of “Seinfeld.” The comedy’s about a bubble-bound protagonist and his attempts to fall in love. Don’t expect reverence; these scribes recently set up at MGM “Special,” a comedy about a guy who fakes a disability to gain sympathy from the demonic son of his bride-to-be. Disney’s Todd Garner, Nina Jacobson and Mark Vahradian made the buy, with the scribes repped by Gersh and managers Linne Radmin and Robyn Meisinger of The Radmin Co.

STAR-STUDDED SHORT: Imagine’s “Bowfinger” bow isn’t the only star-studded comedy premiering in Gotam on Monday night. There’s also the Newseum/NY preem of “Scout’s Honor,” a short film starring Bill Murray and Alec Baldwin as basketball scouts.

Baldwin plays a new scout who uses hi-tech gadgets to measure talent, while Murray is from the old school.

Neil Leifer directed the short and produced with Ken Regan. They’ll hit the fest circuit, and hope to turn the concept into a feature as Leifer did in “The Great White Hype,” a short that also starred Murray.

Leifer’s a renowned sports still photograper who shutterbugged for Sports Illustrated and Time and is most famous for the pic of Muhammad Ali standing over a fallen Sonny Liston that graces the current cover of SI. Baldwin and Murray sparked to the short script by Dan Corsun, who has expanded it into a feature treatment, though neither actor is attached.

“The short couldn’t be a movie, but what would work is these odd couple characters going on the road in search of the next Michael Jordan,” said Leifer. Corsun’s repped by Glenn Rigberg.

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