Lee’s ‘Live’ lives on at U

NEW YORK — Universal Pictures has breathed new life into Ang Lee’s “To Live On,” grabbing the pic out of turnaround from 20th Century Fox, while Skeet Ulrich has been attached to topline the pic, the studio confirmed Monday.

Fox was reluctant to pony up a $35 million budget for the Civil War-era Western produced by Good Machine.

The deal between U and Good Machine is a good fit since the studio’s majority-owned specialty distrib October Films has an international sales agreement with Good Machine Intl.

Ulrich joins singer Jewel and Tobey Maguire in the pic.

The script for “To Live On” was written by Good Machine’s James Schamus, who wrote and produced Lee’s current pic, “The Ice Storm.”

Bone of contention

Sources close to the project said that “To Live On’s” $35 million budget became a source of contention between Fox and Good Machine after Matt Damon dropped out to star in Anthony Minghella’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

Ulrich fills the gap left by Damon. The young thesp will next appear on screen in James L. Brooks’ “As Good as It Gets,” starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. He recently wrapped “The Newton Boys” with Ethan Hawke and Matthew McConaughey.

Ulrich began his career as an apprentice at the Atlantic Theater Company at the behest of David Mamet, who saw him perform in a play at New York U. He worked with Mamet on a number of the company’s productions, including “Reckless” and “Hedda Gabler.”

Among Ulrich’s film credits are Paul Schrader’s “Touch,” Wes Craven’s “Scream,” Kevin Spacey’s directorial debut “Albino Alligator” and “Last Dance” starring Sharon Stone. He is repped by ICM’s Aleen Keshishian and Joe Funicello. His attorney is Ira Schreck of Frankfurt, Garbus, Klein & Selz.

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