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Furlong leads forces in ‘T3’

Clancy tests other publishing waters; Oteri leaves 'SNL'

Edward Furlong has signed to join Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator 3,” reprising his role as the young John Conner in a sequel that looks likely to be in production in early 2001.

While the hunt is on to find a director who’ll replace James Cameron, the sequel has firmed up with two of the four principal players in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” though it is unclear whether Linda Hamilton or Robert Patrick — who’s replacing David Duchovny in “X-Files,” will be following suit. C-2 developed a script for “T3” with screenwriter Tedi Serafian, and while no one is divulging the storyline, it’s believed the pic will revolve around the waging of a postapocalyptic war between man and machine, a crisis averted in the sequel. Furlong’s character becomes the leader of the rebel force which battles the machines trying to wipe out the human race.

Furlong, who most recently starred in the Steve Buscemi-directed “Animal Factory,” recently wrapped the indie “The Knights of the Quest” for director Pupi Avati. He’s repped by CAA, managed by Jason Weinberg and lawyered by William Skrzyniarz.

CLANCY CHATTER: After Tom Clancy’s seismic shift to be book agented by Mike Ovitz’s AMG, talk in publishing circles stemmed around the pending negotiation between Clancy and Putnam topper Phyllis Grann on a new deal to keep him in the fold where he’s been since Grann bought paperback rights to “The Hunt For Red October” in 1985. While word on the street is that Ovitz has tested the interest of other publishers, AMG sources say they’re merely fielded calls from publishers wanting a crack at Clancy should he leave.

Dish hears that Grann will take the initiative and make an imminent offer, trying to include foreign rights in the deal. Past pacts have been only for U.S. and England. It’s also possible that Clancy and Ovitz will look to make a pact for two books for an astronomical amount of money. The question, of course, is whether he can better the last deal, reportedly for $40 million for his last two books for U.S. and England, and whether the numbers add up for Putnam if he does.

Clancy and Putnam are bracing for the Aug. 21 launch of his last book, “The Bear and the Dragon,” with a 2 million first printing. AMG sources maintain the bargaining won’t begin until after Labor Day.

OTERI’S EXIT: Cheri Oteri has decided to leave “Saturday Night Live” after five years of playing sketch characters from Barbara Walters to Ross Perot, Judge Judy and the Cheerleader. Oteri was part of the ensemble in the Dimension hit “Scary Movie,” and recently got an Emmy nomination for guest starring on “Just Shoot Me.” Sources said she’s had overtures from studios and networks to go the sitcom route for some time, so it’s likely she’ll be shopped for a deal right away.

BIG BREAK: Because of the success of the Oscar-nominated “The Cider House Rules,” it’s not surprising that a small bidding battle is going on this week for the rights to adapt John Irving’s latest bestseller, “A Widow For One Year.” What is unusual is how a relatively unknown filmmaker became the catalyst for a film that has several stars circling. “Widow” is being shopped by Good Machine as a directing/writing vehicle for Tod “Kip” Williams, director of the low budget indie “The Adventures of Sebastian Cole.” Williams was able to persuade Irving to grant him, for no money, the rights to develop the book after the filmmaker charmed the author with a vision of how to boil down a book that’s as sprawling with family dysfunction and tragedy as was Irving’s “The World According to Garp.”

Good Machine partner Ted Hope, who’s producing the film, met Williams while he was editing “Sebastian Cole” and wanted to be involved in the followup, even if he thought he hadn’t a prayer to get the rights. “It seemed a most unlikely followup to a no budget film, because ‘Cider House Rules’ was just coming out and John Irving is one of America’s bestselling authors,” said Hope. But Hope was in a position to at least get Irving to take a meeting: Irving was briefly Hope’s high school wrestling coach at Exeter, and Good Machine had done two movies with “Cider House” star Tobey Maguire, who brokered an introduction. Surprisingly, Irving didn’t care as much about getting paid and wasn’t put off by the filmmaker’s lack of credits after he watched “Sebastian Cole” and saw that Williams had figured out a way to film what’s a tough adaptation. After all, “Widow” starts in 1958 with a couple shattered by the death of their sons in a freak car accident. The husband, seeking to prompt a divorce, hires an assistant who’s a dead ringer for one of the sons, leading to the wife’s strangely incestuous affair with him. She then leaves behind her husband and her daughter, and the tale goes in different directions over the next 40 years and involves the publishing business, illicit romances and a brutal murder of a prostitute.

“I first met with Ted and Kip in my house in Vermont, and we established that we had a vision in common for the first part of ‘A Widow,’ because Kip had always imagined a film of only the first part of the novel, only up to the wife leaving her husband and daughter behind, after her affair with the prep-school boy,” said Irving. “While this seemed a radical reduction of the novel at first, I quickly warmed to the idea. Early ideas for making ‘A Widow’ were all pointed to the end of the story, the murder of the prostitute in Amsterdam, the Dutch policeman’s investigation and so forth. Kip wasn’t interested in the thriller aspect of the novel, only the beginning.” Williams left the meeting with a deal to write the script, the first draft of which completely won over the author.

“I don’t discuss money, it’s true that there is little upfront money involved in the deal,” said Irving. “I’m not interested in upfront money, nor in selling a studio an idea for a movie. I say write the script. I write my novels that way, I don’t pitch ideas. I finish the book, then sell it. What I liked about Kip from the start was that he was willing to write the script and show it to me and see what I thought. So many screenwriters come to me and say, ‘Do you like my idea? Will you back it?’ Ideas are worthless to me. The writing is what counts.’

Williams is repped by William Morris, Irving by CAA.

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