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NL scores Demme’s ‘Blow’

New Line has set an early 2000 start date for “Blow,” a Ted Demme-directed true story that provides a blow by blow of how cocaine became the designer drug in the U.S. in the early ’70s, seen through the eyes of an American who became one of the biggest traffickers for reputed drug kingpin Carlos Escobar.

Johnny Depp is set to play coke dealer George Jung, (Daily Variety, Sept. 14) and Penelope Cruz (“All the Pretty Horses”) is set to play his wife. James Gandolfini (“The Sopranos”) is negotiating to play his father, while John Leguizamo is being courted to play Jung’s smuggling partner.

The project is a coproduction between Spanky Pictures, the Gotham-based company Demme runs with Joel Stillerman, and Denis Leary’s Apostle Films. Demme and Stillerman will produce. Leary and New Line production prexy Michael De Luca will be exec producers of the pic, which was scripted by Nick Cassavetes from a book by Bruce Porter.

To Demme, who last directed the Eddie Murphy-Martin Lawrence comedy “Life,” Jung’s tale is an embodiment of the American dream gone wrong.

“It’s a depiction of when and how this country switched from pot to coke, and how a small town boy trying to make it big by breaking the rules ends up losing it all and hurting an entire generation,” Demme said. Jung, who once had $100 million in cash, lost it all and is now serving a 15-year jail stretch — for selling pot.

It’s a big pic for Spanky, which produced the Emmy-winning HBO telepic “A Prayer Before Dying” and “Tumbleweeds,” which won the Filmmakers Award at Sundance.

NEW TREND FOR TEEN FARE: As Hollywood continues to court the Clearasil crowd with teen comedies and “Dawson’s Creek” knockoffs, two TV companies are hatching shows in collaboration with actual teens.

“I love these teen shows, they’re fun, but I’ve said at my pitch meetings that it’s so obvious a 40-year-old Jew is writing them; why not let an 18-year-old Jew write one,” said Jarrett Grode. He just got his wish when the Greenblatt Janollari Studio and 20th TV joined forces to pay him a mid-six figure sum to create and star in a sitcom based on his high school years.

At the same time, Sonnenfeld/Josephson and Columbia TriStar have made a deal to develop a sitcom based on “Bohos,” a cult comic created by 18-year-old high school senior Maggie Whorf. She will be a behind-the-scenes creative presence on the series, and the company is talking a Disney feature with her.

In both cases, veteran show runners will be hired to actually craft the episodes.

The “Bohos” comic was published by FlyPaper Press, whose publisher/president Michael Yanover banded with Whorf this year to get a screen or TV deal for her cynical comic about a sarcastic group of teens.

Grode was discovered while doing a standup act that consisted of reading from the journal he kept in high school. The teen graduated, but has postponed UCLA plans until he sees how the series materializes.

“I started doing standup in 11th grade because it seemed cool, and I thought I might get a couple acting jobs out of it,” he said. “It’s sort of a shock to have a deal for my own series. I know full well that I owe my career to James Van Der Beek.”

Both teens are repped by UTA, the agency that once sold Riley Weston as a “Felicity” writer based on her claim she was 18, but was actually 32. Both Whorf and Grode have been properly proofed.

WILL DOUGRAY GET X’ED OUT?: There has been much nailbiting this week for the makers of “X-Men,” Fox’s big summer 2000 blockbuster, which began production last week.

The reason: Dougray Scott might have to drop out of the role of Wolverine, the gruff Marvel Comics hero with razor-sharp claws. Scott’s been unable to claw himself loose from the villain role in “Mission: Impossible 2,” which John Woo has been shooting for a Memorial Day 2000 release starring Tom Cruise.

The shoot has gone longer than expected, and Scott lost a few days with a shoulder injury. While Par and Fox brass have been trying to juggle schedules to get Scott free to join “X-Men” helmer Bryan Singer and his star-studded ensemble, it’s too big a movie and too big a role for Fox to be uncertain any longer. They need Scott in the Wolverine suit by Oct. 18 and if that can’t be guaranteed, Fox will recast by week’s end.

WEB INTRIGUE FOR PRODUCERS: While Hollywood power players routinely make first-look arrangements with suppliers of material, producers Steve Tisch and the Black & Blu tandem of Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal might be the first to make such a deal with a Web site.

The companies made a first look deal with Hollywoodlitsales.com, a two-year-old website that each month carries 200-300 scripts by wannabe scribes hoping someone in Hollywood will notice.

The producers get a 72-hour window to read each submitted script before it gets posted on the site. If either Tisch or Black & Blu bite, website owner Howard Meibach will be involved in some producing capacity.

The arrangement was hatched by Black & Blu veep Chrissy Blumenthal, and if it leads to one deal, the producers feel it will have been worth it.

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