There's no reason why Oscar-winning screenwriter Steve Zaillian ("Schindler's List," "Gangs of New York") and his Film Rites banner with Garrett Basch shouldn't sign a first-look deal with 20th Century Fox. The question is, why didn't Zaillian go with Sony, which backed his Oscar-nominated script for "Moneyball" as well as "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," for which he has already written the second installment? From what I hear, if the stars line up right, David Fincher may be willing to return for at least one sequel, and shoot it on a streamlined budget. But nothing is set yet with Sony.
So the reason why Zaillian would go to Fox is this: he's an A-list top-of-the-heap screenwriter and sometime director who wants to be first choice for any studio—and not compete with the other "Moneyball" screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, for the best projects. Zaillian wasn't thrilled to share that movie with Sorkin. (The two are publicly polite and collegial about having to serially write that movie.) Sony is all over Sorkin, who is writing Scott Rudin and Mark Gordon's production of Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" biography. UPDATE: Zaillian passed on the project before it went to Sorkin, I have learned.
Also, Film Rites, which is one of the producers on "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" series, will be assembling and producing many projects at Fox's three divisions, Fox, Searchlight and Fox 2000. Film Rites partnered with Scott Free on adapting Hugh Howey's e-book "Wool" at Fox, has a producing credit on Summit's Henry Cavill-Bruce Willis thriller "The Cold Light of Day" (September 7. Among the upcoming Film Rites titles are Errol Morris' "Freezing People is Easy" (Paul Rudd, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson & Christopher Walken) and a remake of Nacho Vigalondo's Spanish sci-fi film "Timecrimes," which Zaillian wants to direct. Variety has more.)
Basch started out with Zaillian as his assistant on "All the King's Men" and "American Gangster."