MARTIN SCORSESE HAS MADE A DEAL at Disney for a film that eyeballs the witness protection program from the vantage point of mobster children. Angelo Pizzo (“Hoosiers”) is writing a script; Harry and Mary Jane Ufland will produce the project with Scorsese and develop it as a possible directing vehicle for him.
Scheduled next on Scorsese’s dance card are “Gangs of New York” for Disney-Miramax and “Dino” for Warner Bros., starring Tom Hanks as Dean Martin.
The Uflands now have several projects with Scorsese at Disney, including a biopic of Vatican financier Michele Sindona; “Chico’s Line,” the story of a Boston bookmaker (who moved into the witness protection program); and “Big Bucks,” taken from the true story of a father and daughter who engineer a bank heist.
Pizzo’s script is based on composite cases of kids whose mobster dads turned state’s evidence, forcing them to resurface with new identities. The film’s central characters will be two children transplanted to a rural Midwestern setting.
“I was drawn to the extraordinary circumstance where a family finds itself growing up in an environment and then suddenly being removed and sent to the equivalent of Mars,” Pizzo said. “There’s poignancy and pain and humor in this story, a composite of cases that focuses on a teenage boy and girl who move alongside corn-fed farm kids. And then, when they’ve begun to make friends and romances, come home to find moving vans in front of the house and federal agents telling them to pack up, that within an hour they’ll never speak to anybody they now know for the rest of their lives.”
Pizzo’s scripts like “Hoosiers” and “Rudy,” which focused on teens in dysfunctional households, pale compared with this tale, where the father is a former mobster with a bull’s eye on his back trying to lead a normal life.
Scorsese has an affinity for the witness protection program: In “Goodfellas,” he memorably chronicled mobsters in the program, and he regularly employs its participants as consultants and sometimes as extras. The most dramatic example came in “Casino,” when Frank Cullota chased another mobster around a pool and murdered him. Cullota was in essence re-enacting, not acting that scene: In the factual book that inspired the film, Cullota is quoted describing how he’d engineered that actual hit.
Pizzo is repped by Endeavor. The witness protection program subjects were repped by Jerry Kalajian and attorneys Keith Fleer and Leah Antonia Ketchum.
MURRAY MAY STILL GET WINGS: Bill Murray again appears ready to take wing in the male lead role of “Charlie’s Angels.” While he looked to be out of the project, he now seems a good bet to join Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu.
He’ll play Bosley, the conduit to Charlie, the mysterious voice on the speakerphone who sponsors the sexy sleuths. Murray’s often very difficult to find when the deal has to be locked in, and the studio was looking at the likes of John Ritter to play the part. But the word on Murray is that if he gives his word, he shows up, and Columbia’s convinced he has and will. Murray’s now expected to bolster the starpower of a pic Columbia is slating for a November 2000 bow.
DANES JOINS UTA: Generally, when a college student gets recruited this hard, they’re a star quarterback. Claire Danes, now a sophomore at Yale, had every agency courting her once word surfaced that her longtime agent Karen Friedman was leaving CAA to move to Germany. Danes has chosen to sign with UTA, where she will be repped by a team of ten-percenters. While the 20-year-old plans to finish her college education (she’s specializing in literature and psychology), she will skip the upcoming spring semester to star in the Jodie Foster-directed “Flora Plum.” UTA chairman Jim Berkus called Danes “an exceptionally talented star who is leading the way for a young generation of actors.” Danes will continue to be managed by Michael Aglion.
CAPPER QUARTET: If the four projects he’s set up get made, screenwriter David Capper might prove a keeper. He’s set a quartet of film and TV deals, most significant of which is “Hell on Wheels,” a project about roller derby that he just set up with Todd Garner and Mark Vahradian at Touchstone Pictures, with Evolution Entertainment and Ricardo Mestres producing.
It’s Capper’s second project at Touchstone, as he’s writing “Kung Fool,” a comedy he set up as a pitch last February with Beau Flynn producing. Tollin-Robbins Prods. has set up Capper’s first TV project, “Quantum Drunk,” at Fox, and TRP has signed Capper and Bentley Evans to write the black-detective comedy “Shaft on Ice.” Capper’s repped by UTA and Evolution’s Stephen Gates and Oren Koules, with David Matlof and Howard Fishman his attorneys.