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‘Diva’ sings to Film Four

NEW YORK — Actor Alan Cumming, who recently discovered a passion for being behind the camera, has made a deal with Film Four to write, direct and star in a pair of films, “Gardener’s Question Time” and “Diva.”

Cumming, the Tony-winning “Cabaret” star who has branched out to acting in mainstream fare that most recently included “Spy Kids” and “Josie and the Pussycats,” previously directed two short film but got his feature debut teaming with Jennifer Jason Leigh on “The Anniversary Party,” an experience that led to the Film Four deal.

“It gave me the chance to do more, even though it has kept me away from home,” Cumming said. “And that got me thinking about when I first came to America, leaving behind my friends in London, and worrying about losing touch but finding that no matter how long you’re away, you still have those bonds. That gave me the idea for ‘Gardener’s Question Time,’ a film that revolves around a group of friends and how they stay together even as they change over a 10 year period.”

Cumming’s ICM agents made the deal with Film Four execs Paul Webster and Rebecca Yeldham based on an outline and an unusual request for money to make a documentary. “I’m interviewing my friends from London, and it was gracious of Film Four to pay for a film that they won’t see, since that was the only way I could get my friends to speak frankly.”

Cumming will play the title role in that pic and will also star in “Diva.” “I’ll play a man who moves into an apartment and becomes obsessed with the women who live opposite him,” Cumming said. “He’s not inherently bad, but he could become sinister. I’ve got an ability to display the ambiguity that is good for such a character, and so I have no problem casting myself.”

SHARK TALE HOOKS EYE: “Twelve Days of Terror,” Richard Fernicola’s new book about a shark attack on the Jersey Shore in 1916, hooked a deal with CBS Productions and producer Orly Adelson. From July 1 to 12 of that year, five swimmers were attacked — four fatally — in a small geographic area. While the first attack was ignored, the second became a national story because it occurred near President Woodrow Wilson’s summer home. The local museum director naysayed the shark theory, attributing the deaths to a killer mackerel or the propeller of a stray U-boat. When three more swimmers were attacked in short order, the townsfolk of Matewan banded together, engaged in a shark hunt, and hooked a Great White near where the final attack took place. The fish was displayed — most people didn’t know what a shark was — and the museum director still refused to believe it. Until the shark was gutted, with human remains found inside. If this story sounds familiar, it’s because the incident inspired the Peter Benchley novel “Jaws.” Fernicola’s book is one of two recently published on the incident, the other being Michael Capuzzo’s “Close to Shore.” That book’s also believed to be angling for a TV deal, but CBS movies and minis head Sunta Izzicupo and Michael Wright of CBS Productions caught the big fish, reeling in the Fernicola book in a deal brokered by Sterling Lord’s Jody Hotchkiss.

DOUBLE DOSE OF TRAGEDY: The World Trade Center horror was doubly sad for Randall Wallace, who directed and wrote the Vietnam drama “We Were Soldiers,” with Mel Gibson starring as commander Harold Moore. One of the heroes in the book on which the film is based was Rick Rescorla, whose photo graces the book’s cover. Rescorla was security chief of Morgan Stanley and he died Sept. 11 while trying to help people out of the WTC. “General Moore, who was about the best battalion commander who ever lived, said that Rick was the best platoon leader he ever saw,” Wallace said. “He probably saved about 3,000 lives in the World Trade Center, but he stayed to get all his people back and the building came down while he was bringing out people in wheelchairs. I have to say that he died the way he would have wanted to go, being a hero.” Wallace had another reason to grieve on that fateful day. His father, Thurman, was near death that day and Wallace boarded a jet to be by his side, seeming to have just enough time to make it home to Virginia. He was in the air when four planes were hijacked, and his flight was grounded in North Carolina. By the time Wallace was able to rent a car and drive the six hours to get there his father had passed away. “My father lived a triumphant life, and when I think of people like him and Rick, and all that happened, I feel that these people don’t know who they’ve messed with,” Wallace said. “The country just seems so much stronger.” Wallace, who made the film as a tribute to Vietnam soldiers, might include an extra dedication for both Rescorla and his father.

SHORT SIGNING: ICM has signed Martin Short, whose rotund interviewer character Jiminy Glick toplines the Comedy Central series “Primetime Glick.” The versatile Short continues to be managed by Bernie Brillstein.

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