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Cooney’s ‘ID’ in Col wallet

Project headed for big budget treatment

All of Hollywood’s studios will ask you for ID these days; only Columbia Pictures will pay you for it.

In a mid-six-figure deal, Col has acquired British playwright and screenwriter Michael Cooney’s newest screenplay, “ID,” for producer Cathy Konrad and possibly helmer James Mangold.

Project was initially set up last week with Sony’s specialized films arm, Screen Gems. But after producer Konrad had husband Mangold read it, the helmer of “Girl, Interrupted” expressed a desire to make the pic his next project. After conferring with Screen Gems brass, “ID” will now be heading for a bigger budget treatment and a release by Columbia Pictures.

Cooney is best known for his West End legit comedy “Cash on Delivery.” But he is also an avid explorer of the darker side of the human psyche: His newest thriller, “Point of Death,” will bow in March outside the West End at the Theater Royal, produced by Bill Kenwright. With a production designed by Paul Kieve, the illusion specialist behind shows like “F/X” in Las Vegas, “Point of Death” delves into a newly awakened amnesiac’s frantic search for his memory after a violent attempt on his life that left him comatose for two years.

Cooney also wrote the 1997 Lakeshore/BBC Films feature “Murder in Mind,” about a woman (a Mary Louise Parker) who must undergo hypnosis to determine who murdered her spouse, a crime for which she is the main suspect.

“It’s true that (criminal) psychology is a recurring theme of all my plays –those that aren’t comedies, anyway,” admitted Cooney in an interview with Daily Variety. “And while I don’t have any background in it, I maintain that it’s because I had such a happy childhood: It allowed me to explore the darker side of things, because I knew I would never get lost there.”

“ID” certainly takes an excursion to that darker side. Pic follows 10 strangers who are stranded at a desert motel by a violent storm and quickly find themselves being murdered, a la “Ten Little Indians.” As the corpses pile up, the survivors begin to turn on one another, and accusations fly before a final surprising twist that reveals the true identity of the killer.

While negotiations have not yet started for Mangold, pic will likely be his next picture. It would also mark the first time the helmer would direct a feature he did not pen himself. Mangold has written or co-written all his pics, starting with indie “Heavy” in 1995 and including this year’s Miramax pic “Kate & Leopold,” a romantic comedy in which Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman topline.

At Columbia, where Konrad hangs her first-look production shingle, she and Mangold are developing a biopic on country crooner Johnny Cash (Daily Variety, Feb. 14, 2000) as well as “The Rich Part of Life” based on the first novel from Jim Kokoris, a former USA Weekend humor columnist (Daily Variety, Feb. 10, 2000).

Cooney was repped by United Talent Agency, Mangold by the William Morris Agency.

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