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Butler's Script Sales in Review: July 2002

Want to sell a script? Come up with a log line like this: A hit man discovers he has leukemia, so decides to put a hit out on himself. Of course, it will help if youve got a great script to back that up, but it will also help if youve got Wesley Snipes attached to star, as scribe Rand Ravich did with GODFORSAKEN, which he sold to Intermedia this month.

This sale, however, is not be confused with A DANDY IN ASPIC, a thriller in which the hero, a double agent, is given orders to kill himself. Written by Yuri Zeltser and Cary Bickley, this baby sold to Columbia for mid-six figures. In this case it helped that this idea already sold -- in 1968, when it was first filmed.

And so went July in the sales world. Remakes, adaptations, similarly themed projects, star vehicles, and, thank God, a few damn good ideas.

Sitting atop the damn good ideas list comes THE DESCENT, the David Goyer adaptation of the Jeffrey Long novel in which a group of scientists confront a terrifying new species six miles beneath the Earths surface in the caves and tunnels that may have been the inspiration for Hell. Dreamworks is footing the bill. Goyer is a master at this sort of stuff, and this one will be highly anticipated. Oddly, Ben Stiller is one of the producers.

This sale, however, is not to be confused with DESCENT, a thriller with a ghostly twist that was dreamed up by Francis Ford Coppola, written by Craig Bolotin, and purchased by Paramount.

Video games continue to be adaptation fodder for the studios, as two game titles - both pretty old school; the rights to all the new stuff must be secured already -- were snatched up this month. SPY HUNTER is an all-time favorite of mine. And it must have been an all-time favorite of someone at Universal as well, because they snatched up the rights. Someone at Universal must also be a big fan of The Rock, as hes attached to star. (The car is the star, man, the car is the star!)

And someone at Columbia must have spent their formative years hunched over a Commodore 64 playing RETURN TO CASTLE WOLFENSTEIN. The studio just snatched up the rights to that classic in which an Army Ranger (Stone Cold Steve Austin, perhaps?) must infiltrate the stronghold of Nazi capo Heinrich Himmler and stop the creation of a superhuman Nazi army.

Comic strips also got the adaptation treatment this month. And, no, its not ZIGGY: THE MOVIE, but another zed-titled strip, the teen-angsty ZITS by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. Universal bought it three years ago and just hired Adam Tex Davis to adapt. Frankly, I find the strip stereotypical and not terribly insightful, but hey, since when are originality and insight pre-requisites for a film?

I do, when perusing the funnies, always make it a point to read OVER THE HEDGE. The strip concerning a raccoon, turtle, and their wilderness friends as they deal with the effects of an encroaching housing development on their forest was scooped up by Dreamworks. Len Blum will adapt. Jim Carrey and Garry Shandling (raccoon and turtle respectively, I imagine) will provide the funny voices for this animated project.

Also in the damn-good-idea category is LEGEND HAS IT by first time scribes Bryan Sipe and Lorene Scafaria. The adventure about a group of kids who band together to save imagination from sinister forces was acquired by Revolution Studios for low-six against mid-six figures. Im assuming those sinister forces arent Hollywood executives.

In the are-they-ever-going-to-make-this-movie-or-is-this-just-another-fanboy-dick-tease category comes news that 20th Century Fox is finally making ALIEN VS. PREDATOR. Paul Anderson has written the script and will direct with Walter Hill and Joel Silver producing. I think well all believe it when we see it

And in the it-just-wont-be-the-same-without-John-Cassavettes-head-exploding category we have Artisan Pictures preparing to update the 1981 shclock sci-fi classic SCANNERS.

And, finally, in the thank-God-filmmakers-like-him-are-still-around-category we have word that legendary director Robert Towne will direct CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL adapted by Michael Arndt from the book by Glen David Gold. Set in the 1920s, the story concerns Charles Carter, aka Carter the Great, a brilliant stage magician who runs afoul of the secret service when he attempts an illusion involving President Harding. Towne is a dying breed as far as Im concerned a consummate filmmaker and storyteller who lets story dictate technique and not the other way around. He may not be as flashy as some of todays MTV directors. McG, thank God, he definitely aint. But Towne still produces the goods, and we, the movie-going public, are better off for it. Towne will produce with Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner. They also produced Townes WITHOUT LIMITS. Its stuff like this that reminds me that Tom Cruise isnt as creepy as that Entertainment-Weekly-braces cover made him seem.

And thats July. Catch ya on the flip-side of August.

-- Edward Butler

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