‘Taxi’ drivers mull reteam

NEW YORK — Director Martin Scorsese is near a deal to reteam with screenwriter Paul Schrader on “Bringing Out the Dead,” a Knopf novel by Joseph Connelly about a burned-out Gotham-based paramedic. Scorsese will develop the film at Paramount as a directing vehicle for producer Scott Rudin, with Schrader adapting the novel.

Scorsese and Schrader first collaborated on the gritty 1976 drama “Taxi Driver,” which put both of them on the map. They followed with the 1980 film “Raging Bull,” which Schrader scripted with Mardik Martin. Schrader adapted the Nikos Kazantzakis novel “The Last Temptation of Christ” for Scorsese in 1988. Schrader has gone on to direct his own scripts, including the adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s “Touch.” But they had dinner recently to discuss the new novel and both sparked to the subject matter.

The novel, which was discovered by Rudin vice president of development Eric Steel and then championed by Rudin, is about a paramedic in Hell’s Kitchen who has a nervous breakdown because of the nightmarish, gruesome things he sees; he’s haunted by the faces of people he’s lost and saved. The writer is familiar with the topic: He was a paramedic working the graveyard shift until he sold the book. It will be published next spring.

Sources close to the director caution that he’s got a full dance card and won’t get to the project for several years. Scorsese recently completed shooting the Dalai Lama pic “Kundun,” and is mulling biopics about Walter Winchell as well as George and Ira Gershwin.

LOGAN’S RUN: Good work can make a screenwriter hot in a hurry, and that’s what has happened to Chicago playwright John Logan. Logan wrote “RKO 281,” a script about the battle to make “Citizen Kane.” While Scott Free Prods. battles to keep together a tentative cast that includes Edward Norton, Gene Hackman, Madonna and Meryl Streep after Ridley Scott dropped out as director, that script has fueled a Logan run of high-profile projects.

He’s in talks to do a rewrite of “I Am Legend,” the film Ridley Scott left “RKO” to direct with Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the same time, Logan is working on Oliver Stone’s “NFL,” a Warner Bros. pic which is an amalgam of several gridiron projects, including “Playing Hurt” and Logan’s own script “On Any Given Sunday.”

Logan’s also working on “Conquistador,” a project about the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca, for Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner at Paramount. Once he’s finished the “Legend” work, Logan jumps to “American Bandstand” for Jersey Films and Dick Clark. He’s also scripting “Cry Me a River” for Fox 2000 and director Carl Franklin. He looms as a distinct possibility to script the screen version of “Rent” for Miramax and Tribeca Films, and the “Berlin Diaries” for director Ang Lee at Columbia for Good Machine. Logan’s also waiting for his script “Pure Evel,” the Universal-based Evel Knievel biopic, to kickstart with director Marco Brambilla. The scribe’s repped by CAA’s David Styne and Brian Siberell.

ROCKERS GO SERIES ROUTE: Flea, bass guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and musician John Lurie are doing a duet that has nothing to do with music. The pair have signed to star in “The Strip,” a pilot for an MTV series in which they’ll play a couple of petty thieves who engage in low-level crimes while figuring out the world.

“It’s a half-hour drama, with a certain MTV-style ironic humor to it,” said John Mekrut, who’s producing with Jim Jones and Gary Auerbach. “They love the action, they love the girls, and you might find them unloading a truck full of VCRs while having a metaphysical discussion about the Mars landing.” Sam Kass, who wrote and directed the pic “The Search for One-Eyed Jimmy” and who’s written for “Seinfeld,” is writing the pilot. They’ll shoot it in August and hope to go to series in December.

HBO HUMMING? HBO is gearing up for a slate of high-profile film projects that are soon to be greenlit by HBO Pictures president John Matoian. Aside from getting Matty Rich to direct a Tupac Shakur film and Mark Rydell to do the David Mamet-scripted Meyer Lansky biopic, it’s got Paul Mazursky to do a pic about gossip titan Walter Winchell (different from the Scorsese project). The pay cabler’s also got “Northern Exposure’s” Josh Brand for “The Pentagon Wars,” with Kelsey Grammer and Cary Elwes starring. Susan Sarandon and possibly Skeet Ulrich are poised to join an adaptation of Anne Tyler’s “Earthly Possessions.” Laurence Fishburne’s attached to a pic based on Walter Mosley’s short stories, including “Socrates.”

Meanwhile, HBO’s talking with “In the Name of the Father” scribe Terry George to adapt and direct “A Bright Shining Lie,” the Vietnam tale to which Jane Fonda held rights for years. They’re courting Alec Baldwin to star, sources said.

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