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Miramax, Onion ink first-look deal

Articles to serve as 'departure points' for scripts

The Onion, the newspaper and Web site spiked with a satirical spin on current affairs that has found a devout fan base among media junkies, has inked a first-look deal with Miramax Films.

Created as a free paper 12 years ago by U. of Wisconsin undergraduates, the Onion now claims more than 1 million weekly readers.

It’s also a rapidly expanding franchise. Two Onion books have been published to date, including bestseller “Our Dumb Century,” and DreamWorks has optioned two articles, “10th Circle Added to Rapidly Growing Hell” and “Canadian Girlfriend Unsubstantiated.”

‘Departure points’

The Onion, which recently moved its editorial offices to New York, regularly serves up news stories under such headlines as “Auto Industry Agrees to Install Brakes on SUVs” and “Casual One-Nighter Gives Strom Thurmond Change of Heart on Gay Issue.” Residing somewhere between USA Today and World Weekly News, these articles will serve as “departure points” for scripts and features, said David Miner of 3 Arts Entertainment.

That would be in keeping with the DreamWorks adaptations of Onion material. “Canadian Girlfriend,” for instance, an article about a man whose girlfriend may or may not be imaginary, will be a high school pic scripted by former Onion writer and editor Rich Dahm and produced by Erwin Stoff and Miner at 3 Arts, with Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock’s Montecito Pictures. “Hell” will be an animated feature.

The Onion and 3 Arts will jointly produce any projects that derive from the Miramax deal. They will be overseen at Miramax by veep of creative affairs Jennifer Wachtell, who roped in the deal. Dimension director of development and production Jesse Berdinka will oversee the Dimension side of the deal.

“We’re proud to welcome the Onion to our city with this first-look deal,” Miramax co-chair Harvey Weinstein said in a statement Wednesday.

“The goal for this Miramax deal is to create movies that don’t suck,” Onion editor in chief Robert Siegel said.

Miramax exec veep of business and legal affairs Steve Hutensky and senior veep of business affairs and international operations Stuart Ford negotiated the deal for Miramax.