"Miranda Grosvenor," an elusive Louisiana resident who enchanted some of Hollywood's leading men with her sweet telephone talk, may not show her face in public any time soon. But the life story of this mystery woman -- whose real name is Whitney Walton -- will soon enjoy major multimedia exposure.
A Baton Rouge social worker who became acquainted with many celebrities when she lived in New York in the early '70s, Walton later engaged in late-night phone conversations with such stars as Billy Joel, Warren Beatty, Quincy Jones and Richard Gere, often telling them that she was a Tulane University student and a model on the side.
MGM is about to ink a high-six-figure deal for the screen rights to Walton's upcoming Cliffstreet/HarperCollins memoir. Tribeca Films -- owned by one of "Grosvenor's" earliest phone friends, Robert De Niro -- will produce the film. Industry insiders report that De Niro will also direct the movie, although a spokesman for De Niro denies the rumor. Last month, the New York Post reported that MGM also made a low-six-figure deal to buy the rights to an article about her, written by "Barbarians at the Gate" coauthor Bryan Burrough, that appeared in the December Vanity Fair. The total option package has cost MGM close to $1 million.
Last month, HarperCollins also paid close to $1 million for the book itself after a peek at Walton's three-page proposal, which it received with a copy of the Vanity Fair article. Now the audio rights -- more crucial in the case of Walton's story than for other books -- are up for grabs. "It could be one of the more important audios," says Walton's editor, Diane Reverand.
Since it was Walton's celebrated phone technique that made her the confidante of so many luminaries, her agent, Dean Williamson, is hoping to use her voice as a marketing tool for the memoir. Walton will produce an audiobook that will feature "Miranda" reading a few chapters of the book. "She's a real mystery, and I wanted readers to get used to her voice," says Williamson, who has an exuberant confidence in his client's verbal skills. "She's not just a person," says Williamson, "she's a state of mind."
Williamson said that earlier this year, he hired a private detective to track down Walton, but she rebuffed him for three months. Finally, she relented and decided to tell her life story. Williamson hopes that the audiobook will appear several weeks before the release of the memoir, which will be published in March.