Koepp to pen Col, Imagine's London tale

Sony Pictures Entertainment arm Columbia Pictures has joined forces with Imagine Entertainment to develop a new feature film version of Jack London’s classic high-seas tale “The Sea Wolf,” Daily Variety has learned.

Screenwriter David Koepp (“Jurassic Park,” “The Lost World”) has signed on to write the screenplay for the project, which has been a pet project of Imagine principal Brian Grazer for a decade now.

“Just like the story itself,” Grazer said, “this project has taken on a real evolutionary flavor.”

Columbia prexy Amy Pascal shepherded the deal to her studio, and is enthusiastic about working with Grazer on the project.

“It’s a project that Brian’s been very passionate about for years,” she said. “Then came the possibility we could make it here, and I said, ‘Why not?’ Because it’s really got everything — a love story, action, adventure and intelligence — that you want in a movie.”

Pascal added that after Koepp deliveres the screenplay, it will go out to major talent.

“There are at least two killer roles in this story,” she said, “that I can’t imagine any actor not wanting to do.”

It is also quite likely, though not yet certain, that Grazer’s partner at Imagine, director Ron Howard, will helm the project. Howard has several offers on his table at the moment, but both Pascal and Grazer were confident that the director (“Ransom,” “Backdraft” and “Parenthood”) would come aboard “The Sea Wolf.”

Although she too regarded How-ard’s participation as likely, Pascal added that “The Sea Wolf” would immediately become a front-burner project for the studio once all the creatives are in place.

Grazer noted that since the project predates the 1986 forming of Imagine and its first-look arrangement with Universal Pictures, he was free to take it to the studio that was most interested in making it.

“It’s separate from the first-look deal (at Universal),” Grazer said. “And I’m very happy to be working with (Pascal) and the Columbia people.”

“Ransom,” from 1996, was the last major Imagine production that didn’t go out through Universal; a Touch-stone Pictures release, it was distributed by Buena Vista.

Grazer said the production would honor the period of London’s setting — the late 19th century — but would sport some modern attitudes as well.

“I want it to be period, but not dusty,” Grazer said.

The London tale has been made for both film and television a number of times in the past, but all parties ac-knowledged that the version that casts the longest shadow is the classic 1941 feature version, directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Edward G. Robinson as the title character.

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