Helmer's take depends on prod'n sked

A mere month after inking a $600,000 pay-and-play deal for his World War II sci-fi thriller “Proteus,” indie tyro Darren Aronofsky is on course for another major payday.

The “Pi” helmer has signed to develop and direct the feature adaptation of the comic book “Ronin” for New Line Cinema.

The financial details for Aronofsky, whose budget for “Pi” was a scant $60,000, are dependent on which pic goes into production first.

If “Ronin” is produced after “Proteus,” Aronofsky stands to make $650,000 for his services on “Ronin,” along with a small backend participation that is contingent on the B.O. performance of “Proteus.”

If “Ronin” goes before “Proteus,” then he will make a flat $600,000. In either case, if Aronofsky also gets to write “Ronin” — something that has not been decided — his total fees could be as high as $1.3 million.

“Ronin,” a property of DC Comics, is the brainchild of noted comic book author Frank Miller. It’s the tale of a dishonored 13th century samurai who is reborn in 21st century New York with one last shot at redemption.

Wechsler, Riley to produce

Industry Entertainment’s Nick Wechsler and Margaret Riley will produce the fantasy/action pic under their company’s deal with New Line.

New Line and Wechsler both met with Aronofsky following the stir caused by “Pi,” which won the 1998 Sundance Fest director’s award. Artisan Entertainment has worldwide rights to “Pi,” which has grossed $88,000 in its two weekends on an exclusive run in New York.

Aronofsky told New Line Prods. prexy Michael De Luca and veepee of production Brian Witten that he was seduced by “Ronin” and would like nothing better than to bring it to the bigscreen.

“Frank is a seminal U.S. comic book writer,” Aronofsky told Daily Variety. “After ‘Pi’ started to get some attention, and I was looking at what I wanted to do next, ‘Ronin’ popped to the top of my list.”

“We’re happy to be doing something that Darren is so passionate about,” De Luca said.

Miller’s time

The comic book is a six-parter published in 1983-84. Miller, a unique voice in the comic book world, is credited with regenerating the medium to some extent, and is also the scribe of the DC four-parter “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,” and Beyond Comics’ “Sin City.” He is likely to be involved in the production of the feature in some capacity.

DC Comics, Warner Bros. and New Line are all Time Warner-owned companies. However, Witten persuaded DC Comics’ prexy/editor in chief Jenette Kahn to bring “Ronin” to NL. It is the first DC comic to be adapted into a feature film outside Warners, which, of course, has had huge success with DC properties such as “Batman” and “Superman.”

“Ronin” has no connection to the forthcoming action-thriller from United Artists, directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Robert De Niro.

New Line negotiated with DC Comics’ Kahn and exec VP and publisher Paul Levitz to obtain the rights to “Ronin.”

Aronofsky was repped in the deal by ICM and attorney Jeremy Barber of Loeb & Loeb.

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