Hollywood is all atwitter with rumors that Denzel Washington is attached to star in MGM's upcoming adaptation of "The Matarese Circle," a 1979 book by Robert Ludlum.
MGM purchased rights to the literary thriller after winning an intense bidding war that included Universal and several other studios. Sources placed the book deal in the vicinity of $3 million, with another $2 million for screenwriters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (remake of "3:10 to Yuma").
Set during the Cold War, the book pairs rival spies, one from the CIA and the other from the KGB, who bury the hatchet for the moment because only they possess the smarts and killing abilities to go up against an international circle of killers called the Matarese.
Relativity Media will partner in the deal with MGM. While numerous studios were circling, the proceedings were controlled by ICM, because the agency represented the Ludlum estate. The project was shopped for franchise potential, and there was a sequel book, "The Matarese Countdown," which could serve as the template for another picture.
The Ludlum estate has also profited handsomely from the trilogy of hit films based on the author's amnesiac assassin character Jason Bourne.