Steven Zeitchik and Jay A. Fernandez
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - With its separation from Paramount complete, DreamWorks is putting a handful of projects on its high-priority list.
The writers, directors and actors the studio is talking with or already have attached are a diverse and prominent group, ranging from Clint Eastwood to Len Wiseman to Steve Carell to the writing team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.
While there are many deals still to be negotiated and many green lights yet to be handed out, the studio is expected to move quickly as it builds its Reliance-funded and Universal-distributed slate -- more quickly than originally planned. Some movies could even go into production well ahead of DreamWorks' original fall '09 target.
DreamWorks communications exec Chip Sullivan declined to discuss specifics, but these projects are increasingly active:
-- "Motorcade": Big names are looking to join the convoy on this story of terrorists commandeering the presidential motorcade in Los Angeles. The studio is in talks with "Underworld" helmer Wiseman to direct Billy Ray's script. The ICM-repped Wiseman is on a hot streak after his "Live Free or Die Hard" earned $380 million worldwide.
-- "Hereafter": The supernatural-themed original screenplay by the Oscar-nominated Peter Morgan has been a priority at the new studio. And it could soon have a director, Eastwood, to whom the studio has reached out. Such a pairing would have the added appeal that it could go into production quickly given the helmer's habit of shooting scripts after a minimum of development.
-- "Dinner for Schmucks": With original star Sacha Baron Cohen's involvement wavering, the studio has reached out to another hot, and very busy, comedic actor: Carell. And director Jay Roach, who had long been attached, is considering coming back on board.
-- "The Trial of the Chicago 7": With a number of directors associated with it during the past year, DreamWorks hopes to attach a helmer quickly and get this high-priority project -- which Steven Spielberg himself at one time was eyeing to direct -- moving forward. Ben Stiller, fresh off the success of "Tropic Thunder," recently has become the prime candidate.
-- "Cowboys and Aliens": The large-scale comic book adaptation is now being penned by writer-executive producers Kurtzman and Orci ("Transformers," "Star Trek"), who took on the gig from "Iron Man" co-writers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby. Imagine is producing, and director-producer Ron Howard, who remains a long shot to lens the film, is developing the project for attached star Robert Downey Jr.
-- "Real Steel": The futuristic boxing movie is being penned by "Dante's Peak" scribe Les Bohem, who created and wrote the Spielberg-executive produced Sci Fi Channel show "Taken."
-- "The 39 Clues": The project is a potential Spielberg directing vehicle, though it's still in script phase, with Jeff Nathanson only recently hired to adapt the first novel, "The Maze of Bones," in the 10-book "Clues" series.
-- "Button Man": "Eagle Eye" co-writer Hillary Seitz has turned in her latest draft of this adaptation of a graphic novel written by Arthur Ranson and John Wagner. There's one key advantage to it moving forward: Mark Sourian, DreamWorks' new co-president of production, was the original exec on the project.