Barker rates ‘Best Laid’

Alessandro Nivola (“Face/Off”), Josh Brolin (“Mimic”) and Reese Witherspoon (“Fear”) are set to star in the Michael Barker-helmed “Best Laid Plans” for Fox 2000 and Mike Newell and Alan Greenspan’s Dogstar Films.

Slated to begin production in Los Angeles and Bakersfield in mid-January, “Best Laid Plans” will be produced by Greenspan and Betsy Beers along with Chris Moore and Sean Bailey. Newell will serve as executive producer on the film, which is one of three projects written by Ted Griffin that Fox 2000 acquired in January (Daily Variety, Jan. 28).

The project marks the first U.S. feature to be helmed by British director Barker, who previously handled indie “The James Gang.”

Pic is a nouveau-noir tale of a smart slacker and his girlfriend, caught up in a heist gone astray. In “Best Laid,” Nivola will play an educated but foundering twentysomething who finds out he’ll inherit nothing from his recently deceased father and then agrees to participate in a drug theft with a friend. After getting caught, he must find a way to repay the drug lord to save his life. He and his girlfriend (Witherspoon) then come up with a plan only to learn that he is the target of an even bigger shakedown. Brolin will portray an old friend who has duplicitous deeds up his sleeve.

“Best Laid” is the first production for Dogstar in a two-year production pact — which moved Dogstar from the Disney lot — signed with Fox 2000 in May.

Although the project falls under the Fox 2000 deal, the approximately $7 million film will be produced independently as a negative pickup, with Fox distributing.

Nivola was last seen in John Woo’s “Face/Off,” in which he played the brother of Nicolas Cage’s character.

Most recently, Nivola lensed Michael Winterbottom’s latest, “I Want You,” which co-stars Rachel Weisz for Revolution Films and Polygram Intl. His other credits include Universal’s spring release “Reach the Rock” and the Fox 2000 feature “Inventing the Abbotts.”

Witherspoon made her feature debut in the 1991 film “The Man in the Moon,” after winning a 10-state talent search. Since then the Nashville-raised actress has gone on to appear in such feature films as “A Far Off Place,” “Jack the Bear,” “S.F.W.” and “Freeway.”

Witherspoon has several upcoming releases under her belt, including New Line’s “Pleasantville” and Paramount’s “The Magic Hour.”

Brolin recently starred in the Miramax/Dimension Films sci-fi thriller “Mimic,” under Guillermo Del Toro’s helm. He next can be seen in Ole Bornedal’s “Nightwatch,” which co-stars Nick Nolte, Patricia Arquette and Ewan McGregor, also for Dimension.

Brolin’s other previous credits include his feature debut in “Goonies,” “Flirting With Disaster,” “Roadflower” and “Bed of Roses.”

Nivola was repped by Michael Davis of CAA. Brolin and Witherspoon are represented by Steve Dontanville of ICM.

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