:”The Usual Suspects” director Bryan Singer is in final negotiations to direct Fox’s bigscreen adaptation of the Marvel Comics’ series “the X-Men.”

Singer is set to start shooting “Apt Pupil” for Phoenix Pictures in February, and he could segue to “the X-Men” helming chair as soon as that pic wraps, assuming that Fox comes up with a new script based on a storyline developed by Singer and his associate Tom De Santo.

The pic will be a Donner/Shuler-Donner production for Fox with Marvel’s Avi Arad and Stan Lee acting as executive producers.

Created 30 years ago by Lee and Jack Kirby, the X-Men are an ensemble of good-hearted mutants who are sworn to protect a world that would rather see them destroyed. Their ranks include Cyclops, Beast and Wolverine. Their mentor is the wheelchair-bound Professor Xavier. The villains they most frequently battle are Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister and Magneto.

Secret story

The storyline is being kept underwraps, but Singer told Daily Variety, “We’re taking the subject matter very seriously. This will not be a comic-book style film, for ‘the X-Men’ are an ensemble of anti-heroes, and we’ve figured out a way to make the story accessible to fans and non-fans alike. The story deals with the origins of the characters, but its not completely based on the first comic book.”

Singer’s credits include “Public Access,” which shared the Grand Jury prize at Sundance in 1993, and “The Usual Suspects.” He is repped by International Creative Management’s Dave Wirtschafter.

(Anita M. Busch contributed to this report)

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