Sci-fi thriller fits bill for studio

“Volcano” producer Neal Moritz is teaming with “Speed 2″ scribe Randall McCormick to mount the event pic “First Murder in Space” at Columbia Pictures.

The high-concept, sci-fi thriller is about a bounty hunter who is sent into outer space to bring back a suspected killer. Trouble is, the tracker gets more than he bargained for in a vicinity overrun by a number of competing law enforcement agencies, which can’t agree upon who’s got jurisdiction in the case.

Col has paid high-six figures in exchange for an option on the project and one rewrite from McCormick.

The studio has been on the lookout for an event pic to mesh with its drama- and comedy-heavy slate for some time, and studio brass see “Murder” fitting the bill.

Moritz and Sony are hoping that after a quick rewrite, the big-budget pic could get under way by early next year. There is no director or star attached at this point.

Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group co-vice chairman Gareth Wigan and Col Pix senior VP of production Matthew Tolmach are overseeing the project for the studio.

“Murder” becomes one of the few event pics on the fast track at Sony.

Although the studio is prioritizing franchises including “Charlie’s Angels” and “Men in Black,” the release slate for next year mainly consists of cerebral dramas such as Neil Jordan’s “The End of the Affair,” or high-concept comedies such as the Adam Sandler vehicle “Guy Gets Kid.”

McCormick’s other credits include the animated fantasy “Planet Ice,” which he scripted with Ben Edlund for 20th Century Fox, and “The Northmen,” co-scripted with John Milius for Morgan Creek Prods.

Moritz has a first-look agreement with Col under his Original Film banner. His pics for the studio include “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” “Urban Legend” and the “I Know” sequel, “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer,” are two Moritz-produced pics to be released by Sony this year.

The prolific Moritz also has a deal with Newmarket Capital Group to make lower-budget films, beginning with the drama “Cruel Intentions.” Sony will release that pic domestically in 1999.

McCormick is producing the sci-fi remake “I Am Legend” for Warner Bros., to be helmed by Rob Bowman.Endeavor and attorney Steve Warren repped McCormick.

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