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Don Murphy takes revenge on vocal critic by buying his book

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Don Murphy’s production company isn’t called Angry Films just for kicks. The veteran producer is almost as famous in showbiz circles for his feuds and heated e-mail outbursts as he is for his film work -- he once got into a much-publicized restaurant brawl with Quentin Tarantino that earned the two filmmakers almost as much media attention as if they had gotten into a tussle with Mike Tyson. Murphy seems to thrive on being prickly. When he returned my call today, he said, almost immediately, ‘I can’t remember ... didn’t he have some kind of blow-up the last time we talked? Or was that with some other journalist?’

But Murphy is also a good producer, having been involved with everything from the megahit ‘Transformers’ franchise to smaller but more interesting movies like ‘Shoot ‘Em Up’ and ‘From Hell.’ The two sides of the man recently collided -- as the Hollywood Reporter first reported -- when Murphy teamed with producer John Wells to option the film rights to a novel by James Robert Smith called ‘The Flock,’ about a collection of highly intelligent prehistoric birds in the Florida Everglades that don’t take well to a Disney-style real estate developer trying to turn their natural habitat into a new theme park.

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It’s how Murphy found the book that makes for the best part of the story. As he tells it, he was reading a blog by his pal Eddie Campbell, who was the artist on Alan Moore’s ‘From Hell’ graphic novel, which was made into a film by Murphy and the Hughes Brothers. ‘At some point, over the course of a week, Eddie did a post where he took scenes from the graphic novel and compared them to scenes from the movie,’ Murphy recalls. ‘And I was reading the comments one day when some guy named James Smith weighed in, lashing into the movie and how bad it was. So of course, I posted on the blog, saying basically, ‘Who the hell are you?’ ‘

Murphy discovered that Smith was a novelist. ‘I thought, ‘Oh, this should be a doozy. Probably some [jerk] who publishes his books in his own basement.’ ' Hoping to revel in how bad Smith’s writing was, Murphy bought ‘The Flock’ on Amazon and took it with him on vacation. Much to his surprise, he found it totally compelling. ‘So when I was in a meeting with John Wells, looking for something we could do together, I got him interested in the book and we optioned it and are trying to make it into a movie.’

They’ve already hired a screenwriter, Travis Milloy, who’s working out a take on the story. Murphy says he talked to Smith after he optioned the book, telling him, in classically blunt Murphy fashion: ‘I only found out about your book because you were being such an [expletive] on the blog.’ But as Murphy told me: ‘You never know where good ideas are going to come from. When people slag you, they’re usually [jerks], but sometimes you’re in for a surprise. In this case, I bumped into a really talented guy.’


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