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Makeover for ‘Betty’

Scribe gives Silverman, Hayek project a lift

Ben Silverman and Salma Hayek are moving forward with plans to bring South American sudser “Betty la fea” to the States, recruiting scribe Silvio Horta to take charge of the ABC project.

Horta, creator of the critically admired but short-lived UPN skein “Jake 2.0,” will write a new pilot script from scratch and exec produce for Reveille/Touchstone. Silverman — who produces the U.S. version of NBC’s “The Office” — has been hammering away at “Betty” for more than four years, initially setting it up at NBC.

Hayek, partnered with Jose Tamez in Ventanarosa Prods., teamed with Silverman last year to breathe new life into the project, setting it up at ABC and Touchstone (Daily Variety, Sept. 29, 2004).

Original “Betty,” from Colombia’s RCN, revolved around an aggressively unattractive secretary — “Ugly Betty” — who works for a fashion design company and falls in love with her ultra-handsome boss.

Horta, working with Silverman and Hayek, plans to make his Betty an assistant at a Vogue-like fashion magazine. Her boss hires her because his Rupert Murdoch-like dad wants to put an end to his son’s habit of sleeping with his attractive assistants .

“But she’ll prove herself and show her ability,” said Horta, who calls the show “an ugly-duckling story of a girl who’s working in this world of beauty and fashion where getting people to see past her appearances isn’t an easy thing”

Horta said he’s been tracking “Betty” for years, in part because his Cuban-born mom is a huge telenovela fan. “She watches these things religiously, so I’ve been hearing about ‘Betty’ for years,” he said. “When I heard they were redeveloping it, my ears pricked up.”

Horta said he wants “Betty,” like the original, to feature a heavy dose of comedy, much of it coming from the title character, who will be a Latina from Queens who dreams of making it big in Gotham. In addition to “Jake,” Horta created Sci Fi skein “The Chronicle” and wrote the horror pic “Urban Legend.”

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