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West pursues ‘Prisoner’; Spielberg scribbles

NEW YORK — Director Simon West moved from the video/commercial world to studio features and responded with two hits in “Con Air” and “The General’s Daughter,” which each grossed $100 million domestically. Now, he hopes to bank on that track record to make two films he has dreamed of directing for 30 years.

Universal has just completed a deal to turn the 1960s cult TV series “The Prisoner” into a film, and West has signed to develop it as his next feature. He’ll follow with an epic romance called “Shelley’s Garden,” which he has set up at Paramount with screenwriter Lloyd Fonvielle (“The Mummy”). “Shelley’s Garden” is based on the life of his grandmother, who had a direct impact on West’s passion for “The Prisoner,” the series about a spy (played by Patrick McGoohan in the original series) kept captive in a village while the government tries to deprogram him.

“My father turned me on to the series in the late ’60s, and I was so obsessed that when I visited my grandmother in Wales, I made her drive me four hours to the set,” said West. “It was this village constructed by Lord William Clough Reese Ellis in North Wales that replicated these buildings in Italy. Here’s this woman who could hardly walk or see, and I’d make her walk around this village with me over and over again.”

West sparked to the project while rights were owned by Propaganda. They passed to USA Films and just moved to Universal, which bested several other interested studios. The project will be supervised by U prexy Kevin Misher.

West said he has worked off and on with Larry Konner and Mark Rosenthal for several years to ensure the film won’t be a cheesy remake. The writing situation is unclear, however, because the project just took root.

“I want it to be as radical as that series was back then, with the theme of a man fighting the system after he’s fallen down the rabbit hole.”

The director is equally passionate about the Par-based “Shelley’s Garden.” West will produce and Jib Polhemus from West’s Wychwood Prods. will exec produce.

“I grew up in a family of big tellers of stories, fables, superstitions, and this is based on characters from my family,” West said. “The story centers around this young girl from a rich Welsh family who ran away to marry a poor Welsh boy from a tiny village. That is my grandmother, and I used to go to that village every summer, so I’ve been location scouting for years.

“I started digging into the story, and I found fighter pilots going to India and Afghanistan — all kinds of characters that shape a love triangle between a girl and two boys who love her,” he said.

West is repped by Endeavor and attorney Barry Tyerman. Fonvielle was repped by Jordan Bayer and Matt Leipzig of Original Artists.

SPIELBERG’S SCRIBBLINGS: Steven Spielberg’s interest in the Stanley Kubrick project “A.I.” hasn’t exactly been top secret, as it was splashed internationally in the press months ago. But there is an intriguing facet to Spielberg’s continuing interest in the project that is news: He has taken Kubrick’s 80-page treatment and is writing the script himself.

Spielberg has had plenty of time to be creative lately, awaiting a filmable script for “Minority Report,” and has been using it to write his first script since 1977’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” If he and Tom Cruise are pleased by Scott Frank’s eagerly awaited draft of “Minority Report” that launches that pic into pre-production, he could hand off “A.I.” to another scribe, but if “Minority” gets backburnered, “A.I.” looms as a possible next directorial effort.

PAR TAPS SCHIFFER FOR CLANCY: Paramount continues to give Tom Clancy A-list scribe treatment. After the studio brought in Paul Attanasio to rewrite Akiva Goldsman’s draft of “The Sum of All Fears” in hopes of getting Harrison Ford to reprise as Jack Ryan, Par has hired “Crimson Tide” scribe Michael Schiffer to adapt the Clancy bestseller “Rainbow Six,” set at Par by AMG’s Mike Ovitz.

The novel revolves around John Clark, who surfaced briefly in the form of Willem Dafoe in “Clear and Present Danger.” Here, the Navy SEAL and CIA operative sets up a multinational anti-terrorist force called Rainbow Six, which battles a biological warfare scheme to unfold at the summer Olympics in Sydney.

Clark’s first solo novel outing was the vigilante tale “Without Remorse,” a novel that sold in a huge deal to Savoy Pictures and was eventually picked up by Paramount. Schiffer, who, in addition to “Crimson Tide” wrote “Peacemaker,” “Colors” and “Lean on Me,” is repped by Endeavor.

CBS TAKES ‘SONG’ WITH FOOTNOTE: CBS has made a low- against mid-six figure deal for the right to turn Kent Haruf’s novel “Plainsong” into a two-hour telepic with producer Orly Adelson. But that doesn’t mean the novel can’t still be a feature. The Knopf novel is one of five finalists for the National Book Award which will be bestowed by Steve Martin on Wednesday evening. If “Plainsong” prevails, the web will allow Haruf and his Sterling Lord rep Jody Hotchkiss until Dec. 1 to go the feature route. The novel’s about a group of disparate people with fractured lives who form a family on a ranch in a small Colorado town.

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