‘Col corrals UA’s ‘Horses’

Talk about horse-trading.

Columbia Pictures has picked up the peripatetic project “All the Pretty Horses” in turnaround from United Artists for Mike Nichols to produce but not direct, the studio confirmed Monday.

Nichols had been attached to helm the pic, based on Cormac McCarthy’s bestselling novel. But Col is keen on getting the project into production by the end of the year, and Nichols will be tied up with “Primary Colors” for Universal.

Though Brad Pitt had been mentioned in early incarnations of the project, no talent is currently attached to this version. Ted Tally, who wrote “The Silence of the Lambs,” has scripted.

Pic had been with Columbia more than five years ago under former Col exec VP (and current Col TriStar Motion Picture Group co-vice chairman) Gareth Wigan’s supervision. Nichols had personally optioned the rights back in 1992 with the intent of directing. UA picked it up in turnaround in 1994 from Col, which was worried about the big budget and the low star-power. There was even talk of a split rights co-venture on the pic between UA and Col.

At the time, the UA deal repped a reuniting of then-UA president John Calley and Nichols, who had produced “Remains of the Day” “Postcards From the Edge” together for Columbia. The pair went on to put out “The Birdcage,” with Nichols directing and Calley overseeing as UA prexy.

“All the Pretty Horses,” which would now reunite Nichols as producer and Sony Pictures Entertainment president and chief operating officer Calley as exec, is a sprawling rite-of-passage Western set in turn-of-the-century Mexico. Story is about a young West Texas cowboy who leaves home with a buddy and rides to Mexico. There he falls in love with the beautiful teenage daughter of a powerful Mexican landowner and cattle rancher.

Sources said that Columbia picked up the turnaround project at very little cost. At UA, the pic languished in development hell with no major rewrites or polishes.

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