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HBO looks at real estate for Garofalo

HBO MOVES IN ON GAROFALO: After staking Janeane Garofalo to a 13-episode series commitment, HBO and Warner Bros. Television are targeting the Hollywood real estate marketplace as the backdrop for the project she’ll most likely do. HBO made a commitment for a pilot script that will be written by John Hoffman and John Riggi, who will co-create the series and exec produce it if HBO greenlights the results. The idea is for Garofalo to be the focal point in an irreverent comedy revolving around the cutthroat and eccentric Hollywood upscale real estate market with the tone of “The Larry Sanders Show,” of which both Garofalo and Riggi are alums.

While Riggi is best known for that seminal HBO series, Hoffman wrote “Queen of the Jews,” the Bess Myerson story to which director Bill Condon and stars Glenn Close and Toni Collette are attached, as well as a Warner Bros. remake of “The Last of Sheila” and “The Captain and the Shark,” the latter of which is the story of the USS Indianapolis, which dropped off material for the A-bomb, was sunk by a Japanese sub and had hundreds of its crew perish from drowning and shark attacks.

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While numerous concepts were kicked around after Warner Bros. and HBO made its series development deal with Garofalo, the network decided Friday to forge ahead with the real estate concept, which will only go to pilot and series if the script turns out to be a winner. The project will be produced by Garofalo, along with Rosalie Swedlin and Keith Addis of Industry Ent. and 3 Arts Ent.’s David Rath and Cara Walker. Garofalo is repped by UTA and 3 Arts’ Rath and Walker, Riggi by Endeavor and Hoffman is repped by ICM’s Todd Feldman and Industry’s Swedlin.

OCEANS OF STARS FOR REMAKE: The star-studded “Ocean’s Eleven” lineup at Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures is on the verge of swelling, not only with the addition of Matt Damon, but also Ralph Fiennes, who is currently toplining “Coriolanus” and “Richard II” Off Broadway at BAM Harvey Theater. Those two are near deals to join George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and Alan Arkin in the confirmed star roles for Steven Soderbergh, with other roles casting up quickly. Damon would replace Mark Wahlberg. Several other roles are yet to be cast since it looks like neither Joel nor Ethan Coen will be able to step in to replace Owen and Luke Wilson, who will likely move aboard the Wes Anderson-directed “The Royal Tennenbaums” for Disney. Both Damon and Fiennes are CAA-repped.

NBC SPRINGS FOR SUB PIC: In the wake of the Soviet nuclear sub disaster that claimed the lives of 118 men, NBC and Once Upon a Time Prods. has bought the rights to turn the Peter Maas book “The Terrible Hours” into a telepic about a daring rescue effort that saved the lives of half the crew in a sub accident in 1939.

The deal is worth mid-six figures if the film gets made, and it’s on a fast track: NBC head of movies and minis Steve White has pegged it for a November production start to air spring 2001, with NBC Original Movies veep Stephen Bulka shepherding the pic. Published by HarperCollins and currently on the New York Times bestseller list, “The Terrible Hours” tells the story of what happened when the Navy tested its latest submarine design, the Squalus, off the Maine coast. Unfortunately, the main air induction valve wouldn’t shut and 26 men drowned immediately, and the sub sank to 243 feet below the surface. Another 33 men were trapped in dry compartments, but the situation seemed dire because no one had ever been rescued at that depth. A salvage attempt was launched by Lt. Cmdr. Charles Momsen, a veteran submariner who designed a diving bell that made it possible to bring the men to the surface. The rescue was carried out by divers who carried out the rescue under the most dangerous and dire circumstances. Unlike the recent Soviet incident, those who did not initially drown survived the Squalis accident. The telepic’s written by Ed Khmara, a feature scribe whose credits include “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” and “Enemy Mine.” The exec producer is Once Upon a Time Films’ Stanley M. Brooks, with Scott Anderson co-producing. Maas was agented by ICM’s Sam Cohn and Ron Bernstein, with Khmara repped by Geoffrey Brandt of the Brandt Co.

FROM CORNER TO “GEORGIA”: Fresh from winning the Emmy for directing the HBO miniseries “The Corner,” Charles Dutton has signed to make his feature directing debut on the indie comedy “Hell and Half of Georgia,” a pic written by Chris Gage and Ruth Fletcher, and produced by Daniel Fried. The project’s a comedy set in the South about a primitive artist who breaks out of a North Carolina state mental institution when he realizes the judge who locked him up is selling his artwork for obscene prices. While the pace is radically different from his Emmy-winning work in the gritty drug story “The Corner,” Dutton said it harkens back to his “Roc” roots. “I was only known as a comedy guy before I was only known as a dramatic guy.” Dennis Hopper is in talks to play himself in a small role in the pic and Dutton is also contemplating taking a supporting role as a longtime inmate. Producer Fried, who most recently completed “O,” a high school-set adaptation of “Othello” for Dimension, will take the project out for financing shortly. William Morris reps Dutton.

UTA NABS MEX HELMER: Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, who directed and produced “Amores Perros” (“Love’s A Bitch”), has ended a courtship by agencies all over Hollywood by signing with UTA. The pic is the debut feature for Inarritu, who’s a top commercial director in Mexico. Inarritu’s debut has been a top-grossing film in his home country, won the Critic’s Week Prize in Cannes and got Inarritu named Best Director at the Edinburgh Film Festival. The film, about how the lives of three people intertwine after a fatal car crash in Mexico City, is playing the Toronto Film Festival as well as the San Sebastian and New York fests.

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