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Bigscreen goes Dahl-crazy

A DECADE AND A HALF AFTER HIS DEATH, 2005 is shaping up as the year of Roald Dahl.

With Tim Burton‘s take on Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” due in theaters next summer, several other classic texts by this giant of Brit kid lit are speeding toward production, involving talent as diverse as Wes Anderson, Henry Selick, Robert Altman and John Cleese.

Mark Mylod (“Ali G Indahouse”) is freshly attached to direct “The Twits,” based on Dahl’s tale about a vile couple and their unhappy band of performing animals, which “Shrek” producer John Williams is developing under his Disney deal. Cleese has co-written the script with a view to star in a pic that will blend live action and animation.

Anderson and Selick (who directed the 1996 movie of Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach”) are collaborating on a stop-motion version of “Fantastic Mr Fox” for Revolution Studios and Sony, about the feud between the eponymous chicken thief and three villainous farmers.

Producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall are bringing “The B.F.G.” (short for Big Friendly Giant) to the boil at Paramount, with a script by Ed Solomon (“Men in Black”).

Finally, Altman’s long-held desire to adapt some of Dahl’s macabre adult short stories into a TV series is edging closer to fruition. The project was put into turnaround at HBO but is now sparking interest among Brit broadcasters.

Altman will produce all six episodes and is apparently keen to direct three himself. Dahl’s stories were previously made for ITV in the late 1970s as “Tales of the Unexpected.”

To cap it all, next year will also see the opening of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Center in the Buckinghamshire village of Great Missenden, where Dahl lived until his death in 1990. The black humor and mischief of his writing remain hugely popular with his pre-teen audience, but it won’t hurt to have a movie or three to help draw the crowds through the museum’s chocolate-covered (yes, really) doors.

Golden knocks on ‘Door’

Ireland is awash with cash for short films but hasn’t got much coin for features. That’s why Karl Golden notched up as many as nine shorts before he managed to scrape together $90,000 for his full-length directing debut, “The Honeymooners,” a romantic comedy that attracted some modest acclaim at festivals last year, followed by a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it release in the U.K. this spring.

But the pic served its larger purpose, snagging the Irish helmer an A-list London agent, Jenne Casarotto and now in turn his first major directing gig.

Producer Andras Hamori has tapped Golden for his long-gestating Patricia Highsmith adaptation “The People Who Knock on the Door,” which is on course to shoot early next year.

Pic is a drama set in the American Midwest, about a family riven by the hot-button issues of religion and abortion. When a father becomes a born-again Christian, his conservative views bring him into conflict with his more liberal teenage son, who rejects the church, dragging the whole family into crisis. Script is by Doug Taylor.

Danny Huston, Elizabeth McGovern and Alison Pill are in talks to star. BBC Films, which has been developing the $12 million project for several years, will co-finance with the Film Consortium. BBC topper David Thompson says, “We have to do one or two American projects each year, or else our slate is too narrow.”

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