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Asimov hot as H’w’d deals abound

Created By creates surge; Moore to produce, star in 'Ugly'

This article was corrected on June 26, 2000.

NEW YORK — Eight years after his death, prolific sci-fi author Isaac Asimov has suddenly become a hot commodity in Hollywood, with screen deals for his novels and short stories landing all over town.

Warner Bros. closed a deal late last week to adapt the Asimov short story “The Ugly Little Boy” into a film. Pic will be produced by Denise DiNovi and Demi Moore as a starring vehicle for Moore. CAA brokered the deal.

Fox, meanwhile, has optioned Asimov’s most popular novel series, “Foundation,” for Shekhar Kapur to direct, and acquired “I, Robot”; John Davis will produce the latter, with Wyck Godfrey exec producing.

Paramount is working on turning “End of Eternity” into a film that Ridley Scott will likely direct from a script by “Total Recall” co-writer Gary Goldman.

And Sony Pictures Family Entertainment is developing an animated film series “Norby, the Mixed Up Robot,” a series of 10 children’s novels that Asimov wrote with his wife Janet, who’ll act as creative consultant.

Most of the deals will be worth seven-figure paydays if the films get made.

Asimov wrote more than 460 works in either book or short-story form. While he wrote some nonfiction and mysteries, his specialty was sci-fi, with futuristic stories that were alien-free and high on pro-humanistic themes.

While his work has influenced many prominent sci-fi filmmakers, Asimov action had been sparse. The most recent adaptation was the Robin Williams pic “Bicentennial Man.”

Part of the reason was that Asimov’s sole passion was his books and his family. He was hardly pushy about getting his works adapted, and was known to grant film options for as little as $50.

New estate representation

The catalyst for the surge in screen activity is that Asimov’s estate is now repped by Created By, a partnership created 18 months ago by Vince Gerardis and Ralph Vicinanza, who rep the screen rights of about 200 major sci-fi, fantasy and horror authors.

Both come from agenting backgrounds, with Vicinanza serving as Asimov’s representative later in his career. The Created By partners have put together a slew of recent deals, with agreements on additional properties in the works with studios and prominent filmmakers.

“The Ugly Little Boy,” the most recent deal, is a time travel drama that would star Moore as a nurse whose empty life is filled with an unusual patient: a Neanderthal boy brought forward in time temporarily by scientists trying to discover what sparks human evolution. The nurse’s bond with her patient turns out to be pivotal.

Gerardis and Vicinanza will exec produce.

Eight-book series

Fox is tackling “Foundation,” an eight-book series whose first installment was published in 1951 and has sold 20 million copies, making it one of the biggest selling sci-fi series of all time.

The series focuses on how the future human race is put on autopilot by a scientist who has mathematically mapped out exactly how the world will run — a program that goes awry upon the arrival of an evil mutant bent on conquering the universe.

Attempts have been made to adapt the series before, but Fox, led by execs Hutch Parker and Emma Watts, has found a helmer in Kapur who believes the sprawling tale can be boiled down into a feature film.

“I’ve been an avid reader of Asimov since I was a child and always dreamed of making the great science-fiction film and only recently wondered why nobody has made a film of ‘Foundation,’ ” said Kapur, who most recently directed “Elizabeth.”

Kapur turns the evil conqueror into an antihero who fights his own destiny to become “a prophet of love.” Kapur is producing with Created By’s Gerardis, with Vicinanza exec producing. CAA, which represents Kapur, put together the deal for “Foundation.”

Sci-fi love story

“End of Eternity,” a love story set against a sci-fi action backdrop, will be scripted by the sci-fi vet Goldman. Ridley Scott is producing with Wind Dancer’s Matt Williams and Susan Cartsonis in what is envisioned as a future directing vehicle for the helmer of the recent smash “Gladiator.”

Par’s John Goldwyn is shepherding the project, while Sony Pictures Family Entertainment exec Stacey Attanasio is overseeing the animated version of “Norby, the Mixed Up Robot.”

Asimov’s film deals were done by Steve Sheppard of Cowan DeBates Abrahams & Sheppard.

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