De Bont debarks next for ‘Zero Hour’

Although he is busy readying his latest actioner, “Speed 2,” for its June 13 release, helmer Jan De Bont has targeted the thriller “Zero Hour” as the next film he will direct under his overall deal with 20th Century Fox.

Based on Joseph Finder’s novel, “Zero Hour” focuses on a female FBI agent — a counterterrorism expert, and divorced mother of an 8-year-old boy — summoned to investigate a threat made on a powerful U.S. bank. Her investigation turns into a desperate pursuit of a sophisticated terrorist, whose identity she doesn’t know — even though he knows her intimately.

Fox acquired the novel for $1 million in 1995 for “Waiting to Exhale” producers Deborah Schindler and Ezra Swerdlow, before the principals disbanded their production banner. The Gotham-based Schindler — who has an overall, exclusive deal with the studio — has fostered the project in development and will produce the film along with De Bont, whose Blue Tulip Prods. also is set up on the Fox lot.

Finder’s novel has been adapted by Cynthia Cidre, whose screenwriting credits include “The Mambo Kings” and “In Country.”

De Bont — an acclaimed cinematographer who became one of the town’s premier action directors after helming the B.O. hits “Speed” and “Twister” — is in post-production on “Speed 2.” According to sources, he will take an extended break and begin pre-production on “Zero Hour” this fall for a start date near the beginning of 1998. Pic is expected to lense in New York City.

De Bont is repped by the Gersh Agency.

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