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Parkerperks ‘Women’; Gere turns on Fawcett

NEW YORK — Director Barry Levinson has signed with UTA for representation. The percentery will rep both the director and Baltimore Spring Creek, Levinson’s production partnership with Paula Weinstein.

Integral in placing Levinson at UTA was Michael Ovitz, the longtime agent of Levinson who last January renewed a 29-year relationship when he formed Artists Management Group and became Levinson’s manager.

AMG-based ATG is the financier of Levinson/Fontana, the TV partnership between Tom Fontana and Levinson and after Ovitz and Levinson made UTA its packaging agents, the tenpercentery’s film counterparts took full advantage.

“To their credit, UTA marshaled everybody to get material to Barry and Paula, and they delivered three writers for feature projects over the past four months,” Ovitz said. “They deserve to have a shot to represent him.”

Levinson was Ovitz’s first agency client, and when Ovitz left CAA, Levinson aligned with Rosalie Swedlin, and moved with her to ICM. He dropped agency ties when he formed the production company with Weinstein, even though he’s been prolific as a director, opening the Warner Bros. pic “Liberty Heights” on Nov. 19, and prepping “An Everlasting Piece” for DreamWorks.

REMAKING “THE WOMEN”: New Line’s long-aborning remake of the 1939 film “The Women” is moving closer to the starting line, with “An Ideal Husband” helmer Oliver Parker in talks to direct the comedy that is still expected to star its producers, Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan.

After a long flirtation with filmmaker James L. Brooks ended when he stepped away after supervising several script drafts from Diane English, New Line targeted the CAA-repped Parker as the ideal helmer after he showed a flair for character and the archly comic material of Oscar Wilde in “Ideal Husband.” English is expected to do another quick pass with Parker before the studio moves to cast.

The 1939 George Cukor-directed adaptation of the Clare Booth play featured an all-girl ensemble topped by Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell. It was a bitchy comedy about a bunch of mean socialites pondering divorce.

That New Line is nearing the starting line is an achievement, because “The Women” has long been considered a tough redo. In fact, it’s estimated by one source who tried to mount a redo that as many as 30 drafts were attempted before New Line got involved. Complicating matters is that the remake rights to the MGM pic have moved around. They’re now owned by Turner.

None of the early drafts properly replicated the vicious wit of the original, but NL’s determined to make its contemporized version whether Roberts and Ryan step up to star or not. If they do, the pic becomes a big ticket item. While NL probably envisioned the entire pic costing $35 million back when it set the project up several years ago, that’s the combined current per pic salary of the duo alone.

BERRY GOOD PAIRING: Halle Berry, who paired with Eddie Murphy in “Boomerang,” is set to join him again as the female lead of the space-aged Castle Rock comedy “Pluto Nash.” The film is being prepped for an early 2000 start date by “City Slickers” director Ron Underwood. The CAA-repped Berry’s coming off a breakthrough performance in HBO’s “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge,” in which she bested the attempts of Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson to play in the tragic story of the actress/singer.

Berry will begin production on “Pluto Nash” after she completes work on Fox’s superhero saga “X-Men,” which Bryan Singer is directing. Berry plays the character Storm, and begins shooting this weekend. “Pluto Nash” is produced by Martin Bregman and will be distribbed by Warner Bros.

GERE TAKES A NEW BRIDE: Farrah Fawcett is coming back with a vengeance. She just did an episode of “Ally McBeal,” and now she’s made a deal to replace Goldie Hawn in a starring role in the Robert Altman-directed “Dr. T and the Women,” an ensemble that stars Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Liv Tyler and Kate Hudson. Fawcett’s also doing the Glenn Close-produced TNT pic “Baby.”

PAR, LADD TAKE “PRAYERS”: Producer Alan Ladd Jr. and Paramount have made a six-figure deal to turn the Dennis Lehane novel “Prayers for Rain” into a potential film franchise.

Lehane will adapt his novel, which was published last spring and revolves around a tough-as-nails Boston detective who slips up in his pledge to help a young woman shed a stalker. When she turns up dead, he turns Boston upside down to find the murderer, with the help of an even tougher sidekick.

As they try to prove her apparent suicide was a murder, they become entangled in a web of deceit, blackmail, prostitution, menacing mobsters and the woman’s highly dysfunctional family. The project was brought to Ladd by Dan Rissner, and the deal was brokered by Gersh’s Ron Bernstein.

Ladd continues to forge ahead with his most ambitious book project, the adaptation of Pat Conroy’s “Beach Music.” After several drafts by the author himself, Par and Ladd turned to Robert Shenkkan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “The Kentucky Cycles.” His draft is due soon.

MULTIPLE ALI: Will Smith is still firmly in the right for the Columbia biopic of Muhammad Ali, Dish hears, contrary to other reports. Rumors persist about the Peters Entertainment-produced project, saying that Smith’s planned collaboration with “Wild West” and “Men in Black” helmer Barry Sonnenfeld might not happen after the western fizzled.

The Ali field is growing crowded, as not one but two telepic treatments are in the works. As Fox and Tribeca move forward with a pic — Dish hears they’re wooing “State of Grace” helmer Phil Joanou — ABC is plowing ahead with its own pic penned by John Sacret Young of “China Beach” fame. Like most opponents of the subject, it’s likely at least one of these contenders will wind up sprawled on the canvas.

FROM ‘FACULTY’ TO ‘CALLING’: Up and coming young actress Laura Harris, who last starred in the Robert Rodriguez-directed “The Faculty,” has landed the lead role of a women with the daunting task of preventing the apocalypse in “The Calling,” a supernatural thriller that will be directed by German helmer Richard Caesar.

The pic was written by John Rice, and will be produced by Bernd Eichinger and Martin Moscowitz of Constantin Films. Harris, who’ll next be seen in the Keoni Waxman-directed “Highwayman,” is repped by Gersh’s Kami Putnam, managed by Booh Schut and lawyered by David Weber.

LIU’S MOVE: ICM’s Toni Howard and Jason Barrett have signed Lucy Liu, a fast-emerging TV and film actress. Liu was Emmy nominated for her role in “Ally McBeal,” and, after playing alongside Mel Gibson in “Payback,” she got leads in the Jackie Chan actioner “Shanghai Noon” and the Woody Harrelson/Antonio Banderas boxing pic “Play it to the Bone,” directed by Ron Shelton. Liu’s managed by Maryellen Mulcahy of Mindel Donegal Entertainment.

DOUBLE DUTY: On his days off from working in Vermont as the screenwriter of the Robert Zemeckis-directed supernatural thriller “What Lies Beneath,” Clark Gregg is getting to exercise his acting chops as well in a surreal manner. He’s joined the ensemble of David Mamet’s “State and Main,” which is filming in nearby Massachusetts, about a big studio feature being made in Vermont.

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