Branagh booked for Woody’s pic

Kenneth Branagh has agreed to play the lead in Woody Allen’s fall project, sources said.

Allen, famed for keeping a lid on the title and plotline of the projects he starts each autumn, has also offered Winona Ryder a key role.

Branagh will do the Allen film as his next major project, while he continues to fix on another directing outing. One possibility is that he’ll star in and direct “The Sadness at Leaving,” a Hanna Weg-scripted love story; he’d play a spy who comes to the U.S. and marries. Years later, he is asked to undertake a mission that would cause him to betray his wife and child.

“Sadness” is being produced by Outlaw Prods.’ Robert Newmyer and Jeffrey Silver and Branagh’s managers, Judy Hofflund and Gavin Polone.

Allen’s latest, “Deconstructing Harry,” recently was acquired by Fine Line Features for a fall release.

Branagh recently completed starring with William Hurt and Madeleine Stowe in the Leslie Glatter-directed Interscope film “Shakespeare’s Sister”; he also stars alongside Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall and Embeth Davidtz in the Robert Altman-directed “The Gingerbread Man” for Island Pictures.

SERIES-BOUND CARUSO FIRMS FEATURE: Now that CBS’ pickup of his drama “Michael Hayes” puts David Caruso back on network TV, the actor has firmed a deal on his first hiatus pic. New Regency, which is producing the series with Columbia TriStar, has acquired Caruso’s script “The Insider,” and hired playwright Frank Pugliese to rewrite it.

In the film, produced by Caruso and his manager Craig Baumgarten, Caruso will play a government agent paired with a female operative; they’re given a 3-year-old and ordered to pose as a family. The deal grew out of Caruso’s TV relationship with New Regency’s Arnon Milchan.

“After they became my partners in the TV show, we decided to expand the relationship — which was easy for me, since New Regency makes the kinds of movies I want to be part of,” said Caruso.

The series marks Caruso’s return to TV after his exit from ABC’s “NYPD Blue.” Caruso plays a Rudy Giuliani-like prosecutor in the new series.

“CBS has been great, and I love the idea of getting back to a weekly contact with the audience. Luckily, the precedent has been broken, and it seems everybody is doing both series and movies,” Caruso said.

Caruso recently completed the Rob Spruill-directed “Bodycount” with Ving Rhames, Forest Whitaker, John Leguizamo and Linda Fiorentino; Showtime’s “The Gold Coast,” opposite Marg Helgenberger for director Peter Weller; and the John Ridley-directed “Cold Around the Heart,” which Fox will distribute in the fall, as studios wait for Caruso’s show to take hold to put the movies into the marketplace.

BALDWIN, DALY TOP “OBJECTS”: Director Nicholas Hytner has brought in Stephen Baldwin, Tim Daly, Alan Alda, Paul Rudd and his “Madness of King George” star Nigel Hawthorne to co-star with Jennifer Aniston in Fox’s “The Object of My Affection,” Wendy Wasserstein’s adaptation of the Stephen McCauley novel. The film, produced by Laurence Mark, begins shooting in New York next month.

The comedy’s about a relationship between a straight woman (Aniston) and gay man (Paul Rudd) who are roommates. Her overbearing boyfriend (Baldwin) can’t handle it. Daly plays the gay man’s former boyfriend, Hawthorne plays a pompous theater critic, while Alda plays a social-climbing lit agent.

“Object” marks Daly’s first job since his NBC series “Wings” ended its eight-year run, with the finale airing last night. Daly also just finished a segment of HBO’s “From the Earth to the Moon,” playing astronaut Jim Lovell.

He’s repped by Addis/Wechsler. Baldwin, who just wrapped “One Tough Cop,” is repped by IFA.

THE NEXT “SCREAM” QUEEN: After Drew Barrymore did a “Scream” screaming stint that would have made “Halloween’s” Jamie Lee Curtis or her mother, “Psycho” star Janet Leigh, proud, Miramax has decided it’s a good idea to get a high-profile actress to do a hair-raising cameo in each of several sequels being planned for the Wes Craven-directed franchise.

The studio put out casting calls to name actresses including Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone, and Dish hears they’re close to a deal with Jada Pinkett to exercise her vocal cords in the opening scene of “Scream II.”

A PLATINUM PEDIGREE: Having spawned the biggest material package of the year in their first week of operation with the Steve Oedekerk vehicle “Cowboys & Aliens,” Platinum Studios is just warming up. Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, who sold his Malibu Comics to take a 50% ownership with Ervin Rustemagic in the company, is working with veep of production Gregory Noveck to sort through about 1,000 foreign comic titles owned by Platinum.

The library includes many titles which have sold millions of copies abroad but were never released in the U.S. that Platinum will try to set up as film and TV projects.

Though they have to be translated into English, Rosenberg said they’re eminently adaptable: “They either set them in the U.S., or in other worlds.” Translating comics isn’t the most difficult task they face. Rosenberg’s partner, Rustemagic, based his operation in Yugoslavia. During the civil strife, his headquarters and home was shelled, and he had to line his car with comics to protect himself from stray bullets. He and his family were unable to leave the country.

He kept in touch by fax, and Platinum’s hatched a graphic novel about his experiences, “Fax From Sarajevo,” about his ordeal, which they also hope to set up as a film.

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