Haskell aims to produce Scruggs film

OXFORD – Longtime Hollywood insider Sam Haskell, who grew up in Amory and now lives in Oxford, has bought the television and film rights to Curtis Wilkie’s book, “The Fall of the House of Zeus.”
The book relates the career of Richard “Dickie” Scruggs as a high-profile trial attorney who ended up a federal convict for trying to bribe a judge in a case involving legal fees.
“It’s such a great Mississippi story. It’s got every element in it that creates a great story,” Haskell said. “This reminds me of a John Grisham story, but this is real life.”
Haskell has already said he’d like to see such a film shot in Oxford, where Scruggs had moved several years ago, along with other locations in the state.
The project, said Haskell publicist Nathan Wells, “has the potential to spur a TV-film industry along in Mississippi, which has been one of Haskell’s goals since returning to Mississippi full time.”
But for both Wilkie and Haskell, the book and the prospective movie also mean a chance to tell parts of the story that most press accounts could not.
“We are personal friends of the Scruggs family, and I was concerned for them and for the ripple effect for not only them but for Mississippi as a whole,” said Haskell, the former global head of television for the William Morris Agency.
The story “has to be about redemption,” he added. “We all make mistakes; this was in the public eye in a way that created a perfect storm for misunderstanding.”
Wilkie, a longtime Boston Globe reporter who now directs the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi, is also personal friends with Scruggs and his wife, Diane.
“I try to humanize Dick Scruggs as well as all the other characters,” he said. “There are many people in the book, and I did try to portray each character as a human being.
“I’d also like to think the book has many perspectives, including the perspectives of people who don’t like Dick Scruggs, including rivals in litigation or people who prosecuted him.”
Haskell’s three-year option on the film and TV rights makes any production timetable a guess.
“It could be several years before it’s on the screen,” he said.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

ERROL CASTENS / Daily Journal Oxford Bureau