April 7, 2009  •  Gertie & Mary  •  Butter - News & Projects

To paraphrase Brando: Get the “Butter.”

So said Mandate when it optioned “Butter,” rookie scribe Jason Micallef’s original comedy screenplay. Jennifer Garner is attached to star and possibly produce with Michael De Luca.

Late last year, Micallef scored the one-two punch of winning a Nicholl Fellowship and landing the third slot on the unofficial Black List of 2008 with his political satire set in the small-town world of competitive butter-sculpting.

De Luca Prods. exec Alissa Phillips brought De Luca the script, and Garner and Juliana Janes of Vandalia Films are in negotiations to serve in some producing capacity. Mandate president Nathan Kahane will executive produce.

Craig Gillespie and Gary Ross are among the directors circling the project.

“Butter” follows a young orphan who, after being adopted by a Midwestern family, discovers she has an uncanny talent for butter-carving. She eventually finds herself up against the ambitious wife of the retired reigning champion in a town’s annualbutter-sculpting contest.

“I wanted to do a political satire,” Micallef said, “and I was looking for some venue that people take very seriously but is also ridiculous — like politics — but at the same time is really visual.”

So the writer, who hails from Gloucester County, Va., flashed back to a fuzzy post-college road trip through a scorching August that resulted in a five-hour detour to the refrigerated building of the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, which housed competitors’ prized butter sculptures.

“I wish I knew why,” Micallef said. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Mandate and Garner most recently partnered on “Juno.” The company’s latest releases are “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” “Passengers” and “Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay.”

Micallef, repped by Endeavor and Josh Turner McGuire, has sold a pitch to Showtime with DreamWorks TV, and he is rewriting the screenplay for “The King of Kong” for director Seth Gordon at New Line. Micallef is also working on an original comedy script with “Milk” producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen.

Garner, repped by Endeavor and Management 360, next stars in the May release “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” and “This Side of the Truth,” hitting theaters in September.

CAA-repped De Luca most recently produced “21” and “The Love Guru.” He also produced the forthcoming drama “Brothers,” which MGM will release.

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