EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has acquired screen rights to the Jane Heller novel An Ex To Grind, a package that comes with Cameron Diaz and Benicio Del Toro attached to play a warring couple in a romantic comedy. The idea is for Del Toro to play a star athlete who for years supports the dreams of his waitress wife. Cut to several years later. His career is cut short by injury, he has has morphed into a beer-swilling couch potato while she has become a big success in business. She plans to divorce him and is horrified to discover she will have to pay alimony to maintain the slovenly lifestyle that led her to dump him. She conspires to find him a new wife to get herself off the hook but when her replacement restores the man she fell for, the ex wants him back.
Laura Bickford will produce with Julie Yorn. The project was set up through the unnamed management/production company started by Rick Yorn (who manages both Del Toro and Diaz) and Ian Montone. Julie Yorn runs the production division, which has a deal at Fox, where she produced the upcoming Tony Scott-directed drama Unstoppable with Denzel Washington and Chris Pine.
Heller’s book was published in 2005 by the Harper Collins imprint William Morrow. Heller’s made movie options on several of her books–Sis Boom Bah was once optioned by Revolution for Julia Roberts–but An Ex To Grind never really caught on despite a formula for a straight down the middle comedy. Bickford and Del Toro, who worked together on Traffic and Che, wanted to do another film and Bickford remembered the original pitch made by Heller’s agent, Amy Schiffman, who’s now at IPG.