Wednesday, April 24, 2002

‘Deal, Danno’:
Hawaii Five-O
in negotiations

DreamWorks hopes to transform
the TV series into a movie

By Tim Ryan

DreamWorks has won over four other bidders the exclusive "negotiating rights" to turn the CBS police series "Hawaii Five-O" into a feature film, but negotiations are continuing.

"We have agreed that they have exclusive negotiations with us, but we're still negotiating many, many other things with them before the deal is done," producer George Litto said from Los Angeles. "Presumably we'll conclude ... successfully, but one does not assume a thing until it's completed.

"This is a very positive step, but we'll just have to see what happens."

Bidding to produce the completed "Hawaii Five-O: The Movie" script by Roger Towne ("The Natural") began last Wednesday with DreamWorks emerging the winner Friday night, said Litto, who declined to name the unsuccessful bidders.

Litto said DreamWorks is expected to spend "seven figures" for the rights to a contemporized version of the series, which ran 12 years from 1968-80. DreamWorks declined comment.

"We have an outstanding script, and the entire production would film in Hawaii -- not New Zealand or Australia or Hong Kong, but Hawaii," Litto said.

If negotiations with DreamWorks are successful, the "obvious next step" is hiring a director and star, Litto said.

Filming of the $70-$100 million production could begin as early as the end of this year or early next year, depending on director and star availability, Litto said.

The idea for a "Hawaii Five-O" film has floated around for years, but most seriously since 1999.

Litto said, "When you try to make a franchise, you do the first (movie) good, and it starts the franchise off properly."

Litto hopes the feature will become a franchise like the James Bond films. The producer packaged the "Five-O" series in 1967 with his client and "Five-O" creator Leonard Freeman.

"Hawaii Five-O" starred Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett and James MacArthur as Danny Williams. The film will include the famous McGarrett line "Book 'em, Danno" and the most recognizable television series theme, by Morton Stevens.

"Everybody has an idea" who should portray the no-nonsense McGarrett, Litto said.

"I don't want to say who I want, but (this actor) knows it," Litto said.

Litto has said he could see the McGarrett role being played by Mel Gibson, Michael Douglas or Harrison Ford.

Litto said Towne has contemporized the "Five-O" series but used the same characters. This is at least Town's fourth rewrite of his first "Hawaii Five-0" script, Litto said.

To refresh your memory, "Hawaii Five-O" was a specialty unit of the Hawaii State Police that answered only to the governor and specialized in organized crime.

The "Hawaii Five-O" pilot "Cocoon" premiered Sept. 20, 1968, six days before the series itself began.

"Hawaii Five-O" was the subject of a rights dispute between CBS and creator Leonard Freeman's estate. But producer Litto, Freeman's agent and Freeman's widow, Rose Freeman, prevailed.

Litto has a long history as a highly successful film producer, talent agent and film executive in the motion picture industry which began at the William Morris Agency in 1954. His production credits include "Blow Out" with John Travolta and "Dressed to Kill" with Michael Caine.

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