Fox is banking on more bang for its buck with the high-priced pairing of “Speed” star Keanu Reeves and “The Fugitive” director Andrew Davis on action thriller “Dead Drop,” slated to go before the cameras this fall.

Sources said Reeves will collar $7 million upfront against at least 5% of first-dollar gross for his part as an inventor who runs for his life when he learns his government employer has sinister plans for his high-tech weaponry.

The project has been on the fast track at Fox since the studio acquired the spec script in May. Reeves and Davis had been in talks since early last month (Daily Variety, Dec. 6).

Davis will earn nearly $5 million to direct and co-produce with Arne L. Schmidt, who penned the story with Rick Seaman. Josh Friedman wrote the screenplay, which Fox purchased for $1.2 million in a writing and producing deal with Friedman and Schmidt.

In casting Reeves, the studio makes good on a pledge to keep the actor busy enough that he would not seek projects elsewhere. After “Speed” became one of the biggest box office hits of last summer, Fox moved to secure the acting services of Reeves by expanding its feature deal with his management/production company, 3 Arts Entertainment, to include a two-year, first-look deal with the producers to develop Reeves projects for the studio.

The deal mirrors one made three years ago by Warner Bros. with Kevin Costner and his Tig Prods. It was that arrangement that helped develop Costner into WB’s signature star.

“We are thrilled with the pairing of Keanu Reeves and Andrew Davis,” said Tom Jacobson, Fox’s president of worldwide production. “We are equally pleased that Keanu will be continuing as an integral part of the Fox family, and we look forward to a long and successful relationship with Andrew Davis as well.”

Filming on a ‘Cloud’

Reeves recently wrapped work on Fox’s romantic drama “A Walk in the Clouds,” helmed by Alfonso Arau (“Like Water for Chocolate”). He next goes before the cameras in mid-April in New Line Cinema’s “Feeling Minnesota.”

Davis, whose “The Fugitive” was one of the highest-grossing films of 1993, also will not be available until the fall, following completion of his Chicago Pacific Entertainment’s “Steal Big, Steal Little.” That pic is set to begin lensing next month in Santa Barbara with Andy Garcia expected to star. Savoy Pictures will distribute the film domestically.

“Dead Drop,” which is expected to be budgeted at about $50 million, is slated for a summer ’96 release. Sources said the pic likely will get a new title.

Erwin Stoff, Reeves’ manager at 3 Arts Entertainment, will executive produce. Michael London, Fox’s executive VP of production, shepherded the project for the studio.

Sources said Reeves was drawn to the material, which is being rewritten by Peter Osterlund and Amy Brooke Baker, because of the strong, multidimensional character. Reeves and Davis also became more interested in the project as a team effort.

More ‘Speed’

Reeves also is attached to star in the “Speed” sequel, which remains in development at Fox with helmer Jan De Bont and producer Mark Gordon. Reeves’ reps at 3 Arts have about five projects in development for him.

Reeves is repped by Creative Artists Agency’s Kevin Huvane and 3 Arts. Davis is repped by CAA’s Jack Rapke.

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