‘Bad News’ good for Phoenix

Forman may helm adaptation

Phoenix Pictures has nabbed the feature film rights to Donald Westlake’s novel “Bad News” and is in talks with Milos Forman to direct a film version.

Pact would reunite Phoenix Pictures chairman and CEO Mike Medavoy with Forman, whose previous collaborations include “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next,” “Amadeus,” “Hair,” “Valmont” and “The People vs. Larry Flynt.”

Deal was packaged by Phoenix exec veep Lindsey Bayman, along with the Paul Kohner agency, which reps Westlake.

The comic caper novel, set in Gotham, is part of Westlake’s Dortmunder series. Story teams a group of small-time criminals with an American Indian woman; together, they attempt to scam an Indian casino.

Westlake has “a genius for comic strategy,” said Medavoy. “His characters have a lunatic brilliance.”

MGM’s “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” — based on Westlake’s novel of the same name and starring Danny DeVito and Martin Lawrence — is slated for a summer release.

Westlake’s previous work includes “Payback,” the film adaptation of which starred Mel Gibson. He also received an Oscar nom for his screenplay adaptation of Jim Thompson’s novel “The Grifters.”

Phoenix recently produced the Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer “The Sixth Day.” Company is developing “Basic,” to be helmed by Lee Tamahori, and the English-language remake of “Elevator to the Gallows,” to be produced with Leonard Goldberg.

Phoenix has released such pics as “The Thin Red Line” and “Apt Pupil.”