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‘Twits’ pic pleases Cleese

BV's Jacobson, Burr to oversee development

John Williams’ Disney-based Vanguard Films has just sold a pitch to the studio based on the Roald Dahl classic illustrated children’s book “The Twits.”

Script will be written by John Cleese (“Fierce Creatures”) and Kirk De Micco (“Quest for Camelot”). Story revolves around Mr. and Mrs. Twit, the two nastiest people in the world, who play mean practical jokes on each other and mastermind elaborate heists along with their crew of trained animals — that is, until one day, when the animals turn the tables on the Twits, framing their ungrateful owners for what was to have been their ultimate heist and living out their days uncaged in South America.

Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group president Nina Jacobson will oversee pic’s development with director of development Kristen Burr.

Studio recently contracted with Vanguard for a multipicture CGI/animation deal, the first pic of which is “Valiant,” currently in production (Daily Variety, Sept. 9).

Williams’ credits include animated hit “Shrek,” the upcoming “Shrek 2” and the recently released Jackie Chan starrer “The Tuxedo” — all through his first-look live-action production deal at DreamWorks.

Dahl is the author of such classics as “James and the Giant Peach” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” — both of which were turned into pics in 1996 and 1971, respectively. Dahl, who died in 1990, penned the screenplay to “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” himself.

Williams said, “We are aiming at a return to the wicked fun of ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,’ ‘Ruthless People’ — and the whole body of work represented by John Cleese.”

Cleese, in a statement, said: “When my daughter Camilla was about 8, it was absolutely our favorite book to read,” but while “The Twits” was “great on character, (it was) just short on plot. So Kirk and I worked up a scenario that we thought was funny, and happily so did Disney.”

Cleese is repped by CAA, De Micco by the Gersh Agency.

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