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Roach will be coming up for ‘Air’

Fox makes first buy for helmer's Everyman Pictures

NEW YORK — Fox 2000 has won a hotly contested battle for screen rights to the latest Walter Kirn novel “Up in the Air.” Jay Roach will develop the novel as a directing vehicle; it’s the first purchase Fox has made for his Everyman Pictures banner since he signed an overall deal at the studio.

Roach will produce, and Michael McCullers, the “Austin Powers” co-writer who brought the book to Roach, will be involved as exec producer and possibly screenwriter. Fox 2000, led by prexy Elizabeth Gabler and exec veep Carla Hacken, bested rival bids by Intermedia and USA Films, the latter bidding for Good Machine and Kip Williams (Daily Variety, Aug. 9).

While the deal’s worth six figures, it is significant because, unlike a lot of directors buying material on studio coin, Roach only intends to make deals on properties he has serious intentions to direct.

“Up in the Air,” which will be published by Anchor, is the story of a motivational coach who spends so much time traveling that he’s nearing his millionth frequent flyer mile, a goal he pursues with zeal as the rest of his life falls apart around him because he’s constantly on the road.

Man on a mission

“He’s not trying to reach that mark because he wants to travel all over the place, but rather to break the spell that this mileage quest has over him,” Roach said. “He describes his existence as living in ‘air world,’ where travelers are herded like sheep around airports, rental cars and hotel chains. His own personal belongings are stuck in a locker someplace and he realizes that while he’s covering all these miles, he’s going nowhere. It’s a compelling existential anti-adventure that is funny.

“In the airplane scene late in ‘Meet the Parents,’ I tried to touch on the absurd systems and rules you’re forced to follow in this environment, and I’m still fascinated by it. It’s like you’re a white cell in a bloodstream being moved around and squeezed through. The surreal mix of poetry and comedy is exactly what I was looking for.”

Roach came to Fox with “Utopia Street,” a comedy being scripted by Adam McKay about a man who moves to a neighborhood and tries to resist the insane sociable efforts of the guy next door. He’s also developing “Austin Powers 3” at New Line with Mike Myers; “Fifty First Kisses” at Columbia; and “Meet the Fockers,” a sequel to “Meet the Parents,” at Universal.

“Air” was repped by CAA and lit agent Cynthia Cannell; Roach is repped by ICM and Gold-Miller, McCullers by Endeavor and 3 Arts.

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