‘Yards’ of stars for Miramax

Wahlberg, Caan and Phoenix sign on

Casting some of filmdom’s hottest emerging talent with a ’70s counterpart, Miramax Films and director James Gray have gathered Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron and James Caan to topline “The Yards.”

Gray — whose debut film “Little Odessa” won the Silver Lion at Venice in 1994 — will helm from a script he penned with Matt Reeves.

Nick Wechsler and Paul Webster, the duo who produced “Little Odessa,” will handle the same chores on “The Yards.” Miramax’s VP of production Jon Gordon oversees the production, and Kerry Orent will co-produce.

The film is about Leo Handler (Wahlberg), a recently released convict, whose involvement in an ill-fated act of industrial sabotage leads to the murder of a police officer and unravels a web of corruption in the New York City subway system.

Waiting for the right casting elements, Gray has had a slow time putting the film together, but Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein said, ” ‘The Yards’ has been a labor of love for Miramax and I am very excited to be able to announce a cast of this caliber.

“James Gray and Matt Reeves have crafted a remarkable screenplay in the grand old fashion of films like ‘Chinatown’ and ‘The Godfather,’ and James has assembled a formidable group of talent to accompany it,” he added.

“The Yards” is expected to begin production in June in and around New York City.

After roles in such pics as “Renaissance Man,” “The Basketball Diaries,” “Fear” and “Traveller,” Wahlberg rocketed to the top of casting wish lists after his star turn in Paul Thomas Anderson’s recent film “Boogie Nights.”

Wahlberg, who recently completed “The Big Hit” for Sony, will next star in the James Foley-helmed “The Corruptor” at New Line Cinema, before seguing into “The Yards.”

Phoenix, who earned notices for his roles in “To Die For” and “Inventing the Abbotts,” recently wrapped “All for One” (formerly titled “Force Majeure”) for Polygram Films. He is set to next star with Nicolas Cage in Joel Schumacher’s “8 Millimeter” for Columbia Pictures.

Theron recently co-starred in the comedy “Trial and Error” and opposite Keanu Reeves in “Devil’s Advocate” for Warner Bros. She garnered attention for her debut role in “2 Days in the Valley,” from which she segued into Tom Hank’s “That Thing That You Do!” for Fox.

After an Emmy-nominated performance in TV’s “Brian’s Song” in 1971, a year later Caan became a full-fledged movie star with his role as Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather.” In recent years, Caan has co-starred in such films as “Misery,” “For the Boys,” “Honeymoon in Vegas,” “Flesh and Blood,” “Bottle Rocket” and “Eraser.”

UTA represents Gray, Wahlberg, Theron and Caan. Wahlberg is managed by Leverage Management’s Steve Levinson. Phoenix is repped by the Iris Burton Agency.

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