Beacon Communications and Merv Griffin Entertainment have joined the ranks of those making unlikely films based on the lives of real celebrities with a deal on a feature film based on the life of George Hamilton. While it doesn’t have a title, the film could be called “the pre-tan years.”
The deal follows the success of “Being John Malkovich” and the fast-tracked Chuck Barris memoir “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” which David Fincher and Mike Myers are circling.
In an upfront deal worth $250,000 against $1 million, Beacon has bought a script by Charlie Peters, and has attached Hamilton and Robert Kosberg to produce and Griffin to exec produce. The pic focuses on a life-defining decision by Hamilton’s gorgeous debutante mom, Anne Hamilton Spalding, to sell all her belongings and take Hamilton and his two brothers on a road trip from Arkansas to Mexico so she could reconnect with a long list of former boyfriends in an attempt to find a suitable father for the boys.
After a long series of comical adventures that ended with Hamilton emerging as an MGM contract player, the mother and brothers realized they only needed one another.
“We bought this script because it was a good piece of writing, charming, funny and irresistible, and believe me, I tried to resist it,” said Beacon prexy Marc Abraham. “This isn’t really like ‘Being John Malkovich,’ because this could be George or anyone else; the key is the story, which made me laugh out loud.”
It is an unlikely film project for any studio, but especially Beacon, which makes pricey pics like “Spy Game,” a Mike Van Diem-directed thriller which could emerge after high level meetings this week as a Brad Pitt-Robert Redford-starrer. Griffin hatched the Hamilton project inadvertently 25 years ago when he hosted a chat show and made Hamilton tell anecdotes of about his teen road trip each time he came on. When Griffin drafted Kosberg to join his company, Kosberg brought in Peters to work with Hamilton on a script that is now circulating among top female stars who might play Hamilton’s mother. “It’s a combination of ‘Paper Moon’ and ‘Travels with my Aunt,’ and every word is true as she dodged bill collectors and all kinds of obstacles, determined to find a suitable father for her boys,” said Griffin.
Though excited by Mitchell’s script, Hamilton feels he now knows how Malkovich must have felt when Spike Jonze enlisted him to play himself. Or when Evel Knievel was so controlling when Hamilton played the stuntman in a 1971 feature biopic which Hamilton also produced.
“I’ve been around this business a long time, but it’s a truly bizarre thing to be turning the camera on myself,” said Hamilton during a break from performances of “Love Letters” in San Francisco, where he’s starring with Joan Collins. His mother had divorced his father, a dashing but promiscuous bandleader, when she decided to set off on the quest to reconnect with the reams of men she romanced while a debutante. “She was just so beautiful that she just had a long line of them. Back then they wrote love letters and she had a bunch of them, from war heroes, captains of football teams, movie actors. Unfortunately, while she stayed beautiful, the guys were not the same. We’d wait in the car and she’d come out and say, ‘he let himself go,’ or ‘’he lost his hair,’ and we would move on. Her trying to find romance and a new father made us realize we were all we had. It led us to L.A., where my mother and brother wanted to be actors and I didn’t, but ultimately it was up to me to be the breadwinner, and I bought them Douglas Fairbanks’s 39 room house.”
Beacon execs Eric Newman, Max Wong and Paul Green made the deal with Peters’s ICM reps Todd Feldman and Jeff Gorin.
STARS “SPEAKING OF SEX”: James Spader, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jay Mohr, Bill Murray, Melora Walters and Catherine O’Hara are negotiating to topline “Speaking of Sex,” a comedy to be directed by John McNaughton (“Mad Dog and Glory”) and financed by Canal Plus, sources said.
The film, produced by Omnibus’s Rob Scheidlinger, revolves around the attempt by a female marriage counselor (played by “The Practice” star Boyle) and a male depression expert (played by Spader) to solve the marital problems of a troubled couple (played by “Action” star Mohr and “Magnolia” star Walters). Also involved are a couple of attorneys (Murray and O’Hara) and the result is a lot of unexpected coupling. The film, written by Gary Tieche, is expected to shoot in the spring, once the actor deals have been concluded.
AFTER PLANE-EATING: For her work in adapting the Ben Sherwood novel “The Man Who Ate the 747,” Bel Air’s Steve Reuther has rewarded screenwriter Gwyn Lurie with a first-class deal worth mid-six figures for her own pitch, a comedy about an unlikely couple who die and get a second chance at life to prove they were meant to be together. Pic will be produced by Elizabeth Guber Stephen and Jordan Kerner. Lurie, a former Fox TV and Interscope exec who’s repped by Jim Rosen at BKWU and attorney Cliff Gilbert-Lurie, has sold a slew of pitches, but Reuther said he sparked to the job she did on “747,” which he’s taking out to directors. Reuther’s prolific output now has Bel Air cranking out one-third of Warner Bros.’s projects, including star-laden pricey projects as “The Replacements,” “Proof of Life,” “Collateral Damage,” “Metal God” “Sweet November,” “Chain of Fools,” and “Pay it Forward.”
HEADING TOWARD V-DAY: Universal, off strong scores for the Robert Simonds-produced romantic comedy “Head Over Heels,” has moved the comedy to a Valentine’s Day 2001 release, hoping for a date crowd for the Freddie Prinze Jr.-Monica Potter-starrer. Pic’s directed by Mark Waters from script by Ed Decter and John J. Strauss. Pic was expected to be distribbed later this year.
GOING “MEXICAN”: David Krumholtz, coming off “Liberty Heights,” the Ed Burns-directed “Sidewalks of New York,” and lead in the ABC pilot “People Who Fear Other People,” has joined Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and James Gandolfini in “The Mexican,” pic directed by Gore Verbinski. He’s the mobster’s grandson Pitt’s sent to retrieve in Mexico. He’s repped by UTA and 3 Arts.
PILOT INTRIGUE: While “Terminator 2” star Robert Patrick’s days on “The Sopranos” seemed numbered, he’s got the distinct possibility to pop up on fall series on three different networks. All of the cast of “The Sopranos” are thriving — word is that James Gandolfini’s feature price quote has soared to $3 million a picture — but Patrick, who only recently decided to try TV after doing such recent pix as “All the Pretty Horses” and “Detox,” got lucky quickly. He’ll join Kelly McGillis in the Lynda LaPlante-created CBS series “Cold Shoulder,” and though he’s slated to be bumped off of that one early, he’s also booked for a recurring role opposite Frank Langella in “The Beast,” the ABC series created by Kario Salem and produced by Imagine. At the same time, he’s part of the cast of “L.A. Sheriff Homicide,” the James Ellroy-created series for NBC and Paramount that stars Miguel Ferrer and Annabeth Gish. Patrick’s repped by UTA, Hyler Management and attorney Jeff Frankel … after scripting such pics as “Armageddon” and “Shaft,” Shane Salerno’s created a series for Fox which aims to reclaim the youth demo the web could lose with ankling staples “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Party of Five.” “Celebrity,” a pilot for Jersey Films and 20th TV about young thesps trying to balance private with public lives, has a cast that includes “Soul Train” host Shemar Moore, Genevieve Maylam (“Blow”), ex-MTV VJ Idalis DeLeon, Mike Muhney, Monica Keena (“Crime and Punishment in Suburbia”), and Sally Kirkland, with “Star Trek: Generations” helmer David Carson having just shot the pilot.