Burt Kennedy, veteran writer-director of such well-known westerns as “The Rounders” and “Welcome to Hard Times,” will saddle up to direct his screenplay “The Savage Land.”

The oater, which will be produced by Finnegan-Pinchuk Prods. and Kennedy’s Brigade Prods., is first big-screen western to be directed by Kennedy in 20 years — since 1972′s “The Train Robbers” starring John Wayne.

Kennedy has been responsible for a long string of western hits — both features and television movies, including another John Wayne starrer, “War Wagon ,””Support Your Local Sheriff” and “Once Upon a Texas Train,” the telefilm that starred Willie Nelson.

According to Kennedy, “The Savage Land” will be budgeted between $ 10 million and $ 15 million and is expected to go into production in late winter ’93.

It’s about a man who helps forge a safe stagecoach route into the untamed far reaches of the Old West.

Kennedy credits the recent success of Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” with helping him get his project off the ground.

“I think the trend is coming back,” Kennedy said. “Everybody I talk to wants to make a western. Until Clint did it, the studios said you couldn’t do it, but now they’ve changed their minds.”

Although Kennedy has not directed a western in two decades, he recently helmed the Hulk Hogan starrer “Suburban Commando” and co-wrote Clint Eastwood’s “White Hunter, Black Heart.”

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