Another project has caught Ron Howard’s eye: The filmmaker has placed the period epic “The Pretenders” on the short list of projects he will direct next, according to sources close to the project.

And in a pairing reminiscent of Robert Redford and Paul Newman in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” Matthew McConaughey is in talks to take one lead and Brad Pitt has expressed interest in the other. The two would portray cousins who make the trek west to San Francisco from their Kentucky home.

“The Pretenders” — which Howard and Brian Grazer would produce under their Imagine Entertainment banner for Universal Pictures — was written by Eric Singer and has been developed internally at Imagine for the past couple of years.

Pic is described as an epic Western with a contemporary edge, and tells a story of greed and corruption among the powerful robber barons of 1873 San Francisco.

While sources said it is likely Howard would direct “The Pretenders” if both McConaughey and Pitt commit to co-star in the film, the filmmaker reportedly also is interested in helming Jim Carrey in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” at New Line Cinema (Daily Variety, July 11); and another possible McConaughey vehicle, the Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel-scripted, “ED TV” at Universal (Daily Variety, June 11).

“ED TV” is a remake of Michel Poulette’s French-Canadian pic “Louis 19: Le Roi des Ondes” (“Louis XIX: King of the Airwaves”). Pic is about an avid TV watcher whose life is chronicled by a camera crew, minute by minute for months, after he wins a contest.

Singer also wrote “The Sky Is Falling,” which previously was set up at TriStar with David Fincher attached to direct; but has since been put in turnaround.

None of the parties involved could be reached for comment.

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