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Helmer digs ‘Deep’

Roach, scribe sign on to Felt pic

Jay Roach is attaching to direct and Peter Landesman has been set to write an untitled film about W. Mark Felt for Universal Pictures and Playtone.

The career FBI man revealed himself last year to be Deep Throat, the secret source who helped Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein crack the Watergate cover-up conspiracy.

Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are producing.

Felt teamed last summer with San Francisco attorney John O’Connor to reveal his secret in Vanity Fair. U and Playtone moved quickly to buy the life rights to Felt and his family, to make a deal with O’Connor and to acquire rights to a memoir Felt wrote in 1979. That book has been re-edited and will be reissued this spring.

Felt was the longtime J. Edgar Hoover aide who was passed over to succeed him in favor of Nixon appointee Patrick Gray. Felt was long a Deep Throat suspect.

Felt’s tale is tricky, because the Watergate investigation story was so skillfully covered in “All the President’s Man.” Landesman said the core comes in the G-man’s motivations and the weight of keeping that secret. He doesn’t buy the widespread speculation that Felt was seeking revenge for being snubbed by Nixon.

“I don’t believe that was the biggest factor,” he said. “Mark’s motivation, who he was and why he did what he did will surprise and move people.”

U president of production Donna Langley and development director Erik Baiers are shepherding the project.

Roach has established himself as a comedy hitmaker with three “Austin Powers” and two “Meet the Parents” films. Next he’s directing Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller in “Used Guys” in June.

Roach has ridden the comedy wave, awaiting an opportunity to diversify with dramas. He swayed the studio and Playtone’s Goetzman in meetings and got the job.

Landesman is a foreign correspondent for the New York Times Magazine who has set up several of his bylined pieces as films, including a U drama with Michael Mann that Landesman adapted from his article on shadowy Russian arms dealer Victor Bout. As a screenwriter, Landesman adapted the Bernard Henri-Levy book “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” and scripted “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” for Beacon and Harrison Ford.

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