John Irving, Hallstrom Together Again on "Hand"
By Michael Fleming

NEW YORK (Variety) - In a deal that reteams the architects of "The Cider House Rules" Miramax Films will turn John Irving's upcoming novel "The Fourth Hand" into a feature to be scripted by Irving and directed by Lasse Hallstrom ("Chocolat").

"The Fourth Hand" is about Patrick Wallingford, a handsome, womanizing TV reporter who doesn't realize something's missing from his life until his hand is bitten off by a lion during a live report.  Suddenly famous, the reporter meets a childless Wisconsin woman who'll give him the hand of her recently deceased husband if the reporter will help her to conceive a child.  George Clooney is a possible frontrunner for the lead role.

FilmColony's Richard Gladstein will produce with Leslie Holleran, Hallstrom's partner in Laha Films.  While it would seem that Irving, who won an Oscar last year for adapting, "Cider House Rules", gave away any deal-making suspense by opening the new book with a dedication to Gladstein and Hallstrom, the author said the recent turn of events has been surprising.

"I imagined we'd be working together again, but on an original screenplay, not this," he said.

Gladstein said the author dedication was a weighty issue for him.  "I only discovered the dedication when he sent me the book and (I) was thoroughly intimidated, thinking, what if I didn't like it?" he said.

While he said he doesn't think of movie possibilities while writing his novels, Irving has warmed to the filmmmaking process, and not just because the trips to L.A. are a welcome respite from the frigid Vermont winters.

"My principal creative pursuit is so solitary, that to be my age and have a legitimate second career in a collaborative invironment is a greatification I never expected," Irving said.

That transition was helped by something that sets him apart from most brand-name authors:  the willingness to amputate huge chunks of prose in the scripting process.

"As long as you trust your partners, you have to be willing to let the book go," Irving said.
George Clooney as Patrick Wallingford?
Irving reprises role as screenwriter
Lasse Hallstrom
Richard Gladstein to produce