Marxist scholar Bertell Ollman, the bane of the University of Maryland and the cause celebre of the academic world, is going Hollywood.
Ollman, who accused the university of rejecting his appointment to a department chairmanship last year because of his political beliefs, has made a deal with Warner Bros. to make a movie of his misadventures in the capitalist world.
In true capitalist tradition he's refusing to reveal how much he'll make on the deal, saying only "It's less than $50,000."
The professor, who teaches at New York University, is a newcomer to the world of free enterprise, which he joined last year by inventing and marketing a new board game, Class Struggle.
It was the game, in fact, and Ollman's New York Times essay about its effect on his life that first caught the eye of producer Jay Presson Allen. She took the project to Warner's and they liked what they heard.
"If Karl Marx were alive today, we'd be trying to make a deal with him," said Warner vice chairman John Calley, when asked about the project.
Instead, they will be getting a fictionalized account of a "Marxist professor trying to function as a businessman in a capitalist society," according to Allen, who has previously written the scripts for "Cabaret", "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" and "Travels with My Aunt."
Ollman says the movie also will include a "theme of academic freedom," based on his struggle with the Universoty of Maryland.
The bearded professor says he was sitting quietly in his book-lined university office as weeks ago when the telephone rang and the caller identified himself as a Hollywood producer.
"I thought it was somebody playing a joke on me," Ollman recalls.
But now, with his story sold and his movie consulting contract signed, Ollman muses happily about who will play him in the film.
"Richard Dreyfuss is my first choice," Ollman confides. "He's got the right combination of smarts and sense of humor, don't you think?"
Two years ago, Ollman, a little-known political science professor, would not have dared to think such thoughts, but a lot has changed since then.
In April, 1978, Ollman burst onto the Maryland political scene when gubernatorial candidates began squabbling over his possible appointment to head the University of Maryland's department of government and politics. In July, the university president rejected his nomination, saying he had made the decision on academic grounds.Ollman then sued in federal court, accusing the university of discriminating against him for his political beliefs. And last month, the American Association of University Professors formally censured the school for its actions.
Meanwhile, Ollman has become quite the businessman, promoting sales of his board game brainchild, Class Struggle, and becoming an active member of the New York City Chamber of Commerce. He's even become the moving force behind perhaps the only Chamber of Commerce "socialist caucus" in the country.
He says he has also learned how "dehumanizing" business can be - making him anxious all the time, thinking of profits and viewing everyone "as a potential customer."
But overall, Ollman seems happy with his new role. "I've signed with Warner Bros.," he announced ectatically in a phone call yesterday. "It could only happen in America." CAPTION: Picture, BERTELL OLLMAN...signs with Warner Bros.