Bill Paxton, David Paymer, Regina King (“Jerry Maguire”) and Naveen Andrews (“The English Patient”) have all been cast in “Mighty Joe Young” for Walt Disney Pictures, sources said. Ron Underwood is directing for a May 19 start.

Paxton’s commitment comes after he was in serious negotiations to step into “U.S. Marshals,” but insiders said the deal wouldn’t gel. Now Paxton, whose credits include “Twister” and “Apollo 13,” will play the lead opposite Charlize Theron, who was cast earlier this month (Daily Variety, April 9).

The story, which is based on the 1949 RKO film, is about a 21-year-old woman (Theron) living in the African jungle who is persuaded to bring a 15-foot-tall gorilla she has tamed to an animal preserve in the U.S. But the ape eventually escapes and rampages through L.A., as she and a zoologist (Paxton) rush to save his life.

The project is produced by Tom Jacobson and RKO chairman Ted Hartley. Wolfgang Petersen and Gail Katz will exec produce, and Gary Stutman and Mark Lisson are co-executive producers. Ralph Winter is the supervising producer. The script was penned by Larry Conner and Mark Rosenthal. Rick Baker is designing the gorilla, and DreamQuest is in charge of computer-generated imagery.

Paymer, (“Quiz Show,” “Mr. Saturday Night”), will portray a scientist who is Paxton’s friend and an associate researcher at the Los Angeles Zoo.

King, who played Cuba Gooding Jr.’s wife in “Jerry Maguire,” will play Cecily Banks, a scientist. Andrews, who played Kip, the bomb defuser and love interest of Juliette Binoche in “The English Patient,” will play the tracker Pindi in “Mighty Joe Young.”

Production on the project, which will shoot in Hawaii and Los Angeles, is scheduled to last until October.

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