In a deal worth high six-figures, Columbia has bought “Crim Law,” a drama to be scripted by Stephen Peters (“Wild Things”) for Michael Douglas to star in . The project will be produced by Howard Rosenman and Carol Baum, along with Douglas and Allison Segan of Furthur Films.
The film is being designed for Douglas to play a seasoned professor who presents his first year law students with a hypothetical murder case to be used for a mock trial in the classroom. When the defendant in the case is found innocent, all parties realize they’ve come upon an airtight way to commit murder, and the actual case precedent is exercised as an actual murder by someone in the class.
The project, which was pitched as “Basic Instinct” meets “Wall Street” along with the twists and turns of the murder mystery “Wild Things,” sold immediately in the room after the project was brought in by Col veep Carrie Richman.
The project was hatched by Rosenman and Baum after Rosenman’s cousin Mark Wintner, a student in UCLA law school, came up with the premise for the perfect crime. Presumably, he will make a killing when the project gets turned into a film. Peters has already started writing. Douglas just pacted to star in “Traffic,” a project which took root at USA. Interestingly, Douglas was the first actor approached by Steven Soderbergh to play the role of the drug czar and was offered the film in tandem with his pregnant bride-to-be Catherine Zeta-Jones. Douglas liked the script but had problems with his character and took a pass while Zeta-Jones accepted her role. Harrison Ford then got involved, and while he vacillated on whether to take the role, he and Soderbergh came up with notes for a rewrite done by scribe Steve Gaghan.
Ford then decided not to go forward. When Zeta-Jones got the new draft, .she showed it to Douglas, who liked the changes Ford suggested enough to commit to the movie. Peters is repped by Steve White at Warden & White, Douglas is repped by WMA. Rosenman, who just produced “Family Man” and Baum, who just produced “My First Mister,” were repped by attorney Shep Rosenman.
ERIQ TO OPERATE ON “SOUL FOOD”: In between rounds on “ER,” Eriq LaSalle will direct the pilot episode of “Soul Food,” the Showtime series based on the 1997 film directed by George Tillman Jr. LaSalle will direct the pilot before his “ER” season wraps.
LaSalle reupped to continue in scrubs with the understanding that he would pursue directing opportunities, and he recently became set to direct the indie psychological thriller “Danger,” a Hitchcockian thriller scripted by Joe Singer and Jason E. Squire. “Soul Food,” which will focus on the travails of an African-American family in Chicago, was picked up by Showtime last year with a 22-episode commitment. The hourlong series, to shoot mid-April and air late summer, stars Nicole Ari Parker (“Boogie Nights”), Malinda Williams (“The Wood”), and Vanessa P. Williams (“New Jack City”). The series, set up with Paramount, is exec produced by Tracey Edmonds, Kenneth Edmonds, Tillman and Robert Teitel, along with Felicia D. Henderson and Kevin Arkadie. Henderson wrote the pilot. LaSalle, who also directed the critically acclaimed “Rebound” for HBO, is repped by Gersh.
FROM “WRONGS” TO “MARCH”: For a guy who just two years ago was writing and directing commercials in Kansas City, John Scott Shepherd is quickly conquering the entertainment business, from all angles. Shepherd’s calling card was his yet-to-be-published novel “Henry’s List of Wrongs,” which sold to New Line as a possible vehicle for Jim Carrey, adapted by superscribes Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. In short order, Shepherd then sold his spec script “The Kill Martin Club” to Warner Bros., “Life or Something Like It” to New Regency, and “American Dream” to Sony and producer Donald DeLine. His second novel, “Eulogy to Joseph Way” was sold for the bigscreen to Warner Bros. and John Wells Productions, and Shepherd’s first pilot idea, “Sherman’s March,” got a pilot order from NBC. That pilot , set in the world of an ad agency in the south, is produced by Kopelson Ent., 20th TV and NBC Productions. Shepherd has just signed an overall series deal worth $1.6 million with 20th TV, that will either encompass his duties running “Sherman’s March” if it makes the fall sked, or will allow him to develop another series. Shepherd is also about to hit the market with a brand new spec script, with an auction to take place within the next few weeks. He’s agented by Paradigm, managed by AEI’s Ken Atchity and Chi-Li Wong, and his attorney is Joel McKuin of Colden McKuin & Frankel.
BOOK MARKINGS: Hawk Koch Jr., who just produced the Greg Hoblit-directed New Line pic “Frequency” and the Edward Norton-directed “Keeping the Faith” for Spyglass/Disney, has partnered with veteran TV director/producer Steve Binder to option three crime novels by Keith Remer, a former DEA officer who retired his post as an explosives expert after his partner was killed in a gunfight. The partners are in the process of setting up both film and publishing deals for the series, with the first novel filmed to be “In the Midst of Wolves.” The books are being handled by Gersh’s Amy Schiffman, who was involved in selling the Koch-produced adaptation of the William Diehl novel “Primal Fear” to Paramount. At the same time, Koch and Binder are partnered on “America Remembers: A Musical Celebration of our Nation’s World War II Memorial,” a two hour telepic they’ll produce with Russ Morris. Stephen Poiliot is writing the special, whose sale is being brokered by CAA … Arielle Tepper, who’s built a strong stage producing resume with an adaptation of James Joyce’s “The Dead” and others, is turning to the screen. She has optioned “Naked By the Window,’ a book by Robert Katz about a well publicized Gotham murder case in which minimalist artist Carle Andre called cops to say his artist wife had gone out the window of their 34 story apartment — landing in almost the exact position of a sculpture she had just completed., which prompted the title of the book. The book is a potential “Reversal of Fortune,” as the artist was acquitted. Katz, whose credits include “Kamikaze 89” and “Massacre in Rome,” will write the script in a deal to be worth mid six-figures when the project’s set up. The book, published by Atlantic Monthly Press, was repped by Jody Hotchkiss of Sterling Lord Literistic.
ORBITING “PLUTO”: Rosario Dawson will replace Halle Berry in “Pluto Nash,” the Ron Underwood-directed Castle Rock comedy. Berry dropped out last week. Dawson, best known for such pics as “He Got Game,” “Light It Up” and “Kids,” is currently shooting “Sidewalks of New York” for Ed Burns. She is repped by Innovative Artist’s Allison Levy, and managed by Evan Hainey of Edmonds Management. Shooting begins in early April.
OSCAR DISHINGS: Until Sunday, there’s a house divided in Westchester County. Andy Mondshein is nominated for his editing work on “The Sixth Sense,” while his wife, Leslie Holleran, was a coproducer on “The Cider House Rules.” Between their films, 13 Oscar noms are at stake, including a Best Picture battle between the two pics … Nice little backstory to the Best Documentary Oscar race. Genghis Blues star Paul Pena, the blind bluesman who travelled to the obscure Asian republic of Tuva to take part in a throatsinging competition. Pena has a ticket to the Oscars, but his health is failing from pancreatic cancer, a condition which had doctors not expecting him to live this long. Documakers Adrian and Roko Belic expect Pena to beat the odds and make his appearance.