Project auctions: One hot, one not


Two high-profile projects are making the rounds this week, with bidding taking place under a very public eye. One elicited a frenzy, while the other is struggling to find a home, but both have one thing in common: a high price tag.

Peter Jackson's latest effort, a feature adaptation of "The Lovely Bones," went out Monday, complete with a production and marketing budget as well as CD with music to accompany the script. But what had many execs talking was its $80 million price tag -- huge for a drama, even one with supernatural elements.

Also important to the deal were conversations about release dates and what other films the winning company will have in the same quarter, as Jackson wants to know how time and attention will be divided between his movie and others. Still, the package was attractive enough to make it a strong four-horse race, with DreamWorks, Warner Bros. Pictures, Sony and Universal in the running.

The second project being shopped is an untitled Hollywood murder mystery written by John Logan, with Michael Mann attached to direct and Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star. Those who have read the script have described it as "excellent," with DiCaprio playing a studio fixer a la the late Eddie Mannix.

The creative team also is looking at it as a possible franchise, which would be a first for DiCaprio. While that combination should create definite interest, the price tag of $120 million is leaving many suitors with cold feet.

The project went out April 26 and, by Wednesday night, only New Line had put in a bid. Sources said that Sony, Paramount and 20th Century Fox were contemplating entering the ring. "It's an insane amount of money," said an exec close to the bidding. "And with Mann, add another 20% because you're know you're going to go over (budget)."