Paramount-based producer Scott Rudin has optioned screen rights to “The Man With Two Heads,” a magazine article about Binjamin Wilkomirski, who was heralded for his gripping 1995 Holocaust memoirs — but who is now accused of fabricating the entire tale.
The Wilkomirski memoir won a slew of prizes including the National Jewish Book Award, with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum even sending the author on a fund-raising tour. That was before evidence surfaced that indicated its author not only wasn’t in a Polish concentration camp, he was not even in Poland.
Rudin’s film will be about the investigation into the man and his story. The pic will be based on the 65-page article by Elena Lappin that was published last summer in the literary quarterly mag Granta.
Lappin was the editor of Jewish Quarterly, which gave the author a nonfiction prize, one of many awards he received. Lappin had access to Wilkomirski and wanted to believe him, if only because it seems unfathomable that someone would fabricate such stark and horrific details about growing up in two death camps.
That included witnessing the brutal death of his father and seeing rats eating corpses. The revelations came out, he said, during therapy, but Holocaust experts began citing inconsistencies in legal documents and the author’s birth records — which indicated Wilkomirski was born in 1941 in Switzerland, and stayed there before being adopted by a wealthy family.
The article implies that while the truth might never be known, Wilkomirski might have sought to find an identity in the Holocaust. Wilkomirski has steadfastly maintained that he’s telling the truth.
Last month, German publisher Suhrkamp Verlag withdrew copies of Wilkomirski’s “Fragments: Memories of a Childhood, 1939-1948” from bookshelves and this week the U.S. publisher Knopf imprint Schocken Books followed suit.
Rudin recently bought Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Hours,” and is teaming with Sydney Pollack on the Vikram Seth novel “An Equal Music.”
TUCKER GETTING SOUL? Chris Tucker’s long break after “Rush Hour” is about to come to an end. But the guessing game is which project it will be.
The early fave, “Guess Who’s President?” has been overtaken by two others. Dish disclosed weeks ago he was being wooed for a return date with “Friday” helmer Gary Gray in the New Regency comedy “Black Knight” (Daily Variety, Sept. 16). But another contender has emerged that is as surprising as it is familiar: “Double O-Soul,” a spy spoof that once had Tucker in a $7 million deal to star with Mariah Carey before it fell apart last year.
Universal got Imagine’s Brian Grazer to redevelop the pic, and director talks are under way with a Tucker favorite, Hype Williams, who helmed “Belly.” If Tucker takes that pic, he’ll make better than $7 million, but the likely salary for “Soul” or “Knight” will be much less than the $20 million Tucker’s been seeking; he’ll probably get north of $10 million, a far cry above the $3 million he received for “Rush Hour.”
There seems a good chance Tucker will do those films one after another, possibly with “Double O-Soul” first, and then move on to that big payday level on “Rush Hour 2.” But with the talented but unpredictable Tucker, this might be an open question until the next film starts production.
TRIBECA HIRE: Tribeca partners Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal are determined to broaden beyond film producing, and have named Gregory Heyman their director of business development. A Gotham-bred Yale Law School grad, Heyman has a mandate to turn Tribeca into a full-fledged brand name in real estate, merchandising, Internet, etc. That effort began when Tribeca recently pacted to replicate their Tribeca Film Center screening room in Ian Schrager’s hotels. Heyman will steer them into other arenas, including the ongoing effort to build a film production facility.
Gotham mayor Rudy Giuliani skunked De Niro and Rosenthal’s plans to turn the Brooklyn Navy Yard into a film studio with Harvey Weinstein. Despite a report that Tribeca would spite Gotham and break ground in New Jersey, Heyman said, “We would never engage in a major project with that as our motivation; it’s never a good way to operate. That site is one of many around the tri-state area made known to Tribeca once Brooklyn fell through.
“We will undertake endeavors to expand our business if it makes sense, but we haven’t retained a real estate broker and haven’t sought anything out.” Though promising to be aggressive, Heyman’s circumspect on Tribeca’s expansion plans. “In the film business, you get an idea and announce it, but in finance, you have an idea, you almost finish the project, then you make an announcement.”
SHAYE’S PODIUM MOMENT: New Line Cinema chairman-CEO Bob Shaye joins such storied Gotham film fixtures as Martin Scorsese and Teamsters Local 817 prexy Thomas O’Donnell Sr. to receive the first Directors Guild of America Honors, which will be doled out Nov. 21 at Gotham’s Hilton Hotel. The New Line founder and his co-honorees are being honored for their contributions in building up the East Coast film biz. It’s the second time Shaye’s shared a prize with Scorsese: At age 15, the two nabbed first prize for short films each directed.
JOEL’S NEW FIND: After a string of blockbusters like “Batman Forever,” Joel Schumacher is so removed from the big-budget arena that his next pic, “Tigerland,” has a total budget less than $10 million. (In other words, the entire budget is less than the salary Brendan Fraser was asking for the remake of “L’Appartement,” which Schumacher ultimately bailed out of.)
“Tigerland” is a gritty ensemble drama about youths combat training for Vietnam; the helmer, whose early casting finds include Demi Moore and Matthew McConaughey, is thrilled that his star is an unknown to filmgoers: young Irish stage actor Colin Farrell. Schumacher predicts that the CAA-repped Farrell won’t be an unknown for long. “He’s got incredible charisma and is perfect for this film which will be shot on a closed-down army base where there will be no makeup artist, hairdresser or production designer,” said Schumacher. “The hope is to be as close to reality as we can make it look. It’s definitely not a cell-phone movie.”