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Alexander again eyes greatness; ‘Kirk’ no shirk

NEW YORK — Irwin Winkler has made a deal with Columbia to produce and possibly direct “The Promise,” a fact-based drama based on a recent Los Angeles Times article. It would be his followup to the MGM film “At First Sight” with Mira Sorvino and Val Kilmer. Winkler, who has hired Jack Olsen (“The Maker’s Mark”) to write the screenplay, will produce with Rob Cowan through his Winkler Films banner.

The article, written by Times reporter Angie Chuang, focused on the efforts of a marketing executive to create an awareness campaign and reward fund to capture his father’s killer. Alan Peterson Jr. posted a $25,000 reward, which helped catch a 16-year-old suspect who allegedly took part in the carjacking and killing of Peterson Sr., a construction company owner shot point-blank at a fast-food restaurant. The senseless death shattered his family and made the son obsessed with bringing the killer to justice, then left Peterson to ponder a suspect who’s an underprivileged teen with no father figure and no idea what Peterson has been robbed of.

Winkler was interested in the price survivors pay when a family member is murdered. “Somebody who works around my house was out for a couple of days and we learned his son was shot in Venice just walking down the street,” Winkler said.

“It struck me that we hear all about the random violence, but not about what happens to the family which has to deal with this tragedy, and how they try to seek closure. Here, it’s a man’s obsession with his father’s murder and what that does to everyone around him when the man never lets go.”

ALEXANDER IN STEREO: While Oliver Stone has backburnered his plans to make an Alexander the Great biopic, the Macedo-nian who conquered much of the known world before his death at age 33 is poised to have another chance at planting his flag on the bigscreen — courtesy of Christopher McQuarrie, Oscar-winning scribe of “The Usual Suspects.”

McQuarrie’s completed a script about Alexander, born in 356 B.C., who led his troops in a series of brutal but successful battles, first against Persia and then much of the rest of Asia, only to succumb to an accumulation of war wounds. McQuarrie hopes to make his directorial debut on the epic-sized film, and Matthew McConaughey’s the guy WB is eyeing for Greatness.

STRICKLAND CALLS ‘NATURE’: David Strickland, on hiatus from his regular role on the NBC sitcom “Suddenly Susan,” will join Ben Affleck, Sandra Bullock and Maura Tierney in “Forces of Nature,” which Guy Ferland will direct. In the film, Bullock and Affleck fall in love after a chance meeting while Affleck’s character is en route to visit his fiance (Tierney). Strickland plays Bullock’s romantic interest who gets tossed aside by the romance.

Strickland, who just completed the lead role in the indie film “Delivered,” is repped by UTA and managed by Bonnie Bernstein and Brian Swardstrom of In House Entertainment.

WALKER HEADS FOR ‘TEXAS’: Ally Walker, whose NBC drama “Profiler” has been renewed by NBC, has had her mind on features lately. She’s spent her hiatus starring in “Happy Texas,” a Mark Isley-directed indie, which co-stars Steve Zahn, William Macy, Jeremy Northam and Ileanna Douglas.

Walker describes the film as “guys break out of prison, steal a Winnebago and pose as two gay pageant throwers who show up in the town of Happy, Texas. They change the lives of the people in the town and it’s just hilarious.”

It’s a marked change from her TV persona, where she tracks down brutal criminals using psychic awareness that would make Dionne Warwick jealous. The show’s planning to better round out her character next season under new exec producer Steve Kronish, whose credits include “Wise Guy” and “The Commish.”

SHATNER RETURNS: Distributors will get their first peek on Thursday at “Free Enterprise,” a film looking for a home that is reminiscent of “My Favorite Yearm,” and undoubtedly boasts the oddest moment in William Shatner’s singing career since his hallucinogenic ’60s rendition “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.”

The film, produced by Mindfire Entertainment., toplines Rafer Weigel (“Jenny”) and Eric McCormack as two “Star Trek”-obsessed screenwriter wannabes who meet Shatner while he’s perusing porn in a bookstore. Capt. Kirk agrees to become their mentor, but they findhis brain operating at warped speed.

Shatner gives them nothing but wrong advice on subjects like love and the theater: Shatner confides the mission he considers his personal final frontier — an epic musical on Julius Caesar. “I know it’s a ridiculous idea to do Caesar as a six-hour musical, with me playing all the parts,” says Shatner, “but I know I can pull it off!”

The film culminates with Shatner belting out the historical rap tune “No Tears for Caesar.” The pic is directed by video vet Robert Meyer Burnett from a script he wrote with Mark A. Altman, and Shatner follows John Malkovich — booked to star in “Being John Malkovich” — as a good sport not above poking fun at his serious onscreen image.

WHALE OF A TALE: While all Hollywood awaits Tom Wolfe’s “A Life in Full” (CAA’s Bob Bookman might not shop screen rights until July as Wolfe scribbles toward the finish line), the town’s eyeing another book whose publishing rights get auctioned today by agent Stuart Krichevsky: “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex,” compiled by Nathaniel Philbruck.

A nonfiction combination of “The Perfect Storm” and “Moby Dick,” it’s the firsthand account of a 15-year-old cabin boy who survived an 1820 whaling expedition 3,000 miles off Chile, in which a huge whale rammed the ship and sank it. There were eight survivors out of the 20 sailors. This is the second survivor account.

The other inspired Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” The cabin boy’s account was found in a trunk and, appropriate for the subject matter, has leaked to Hollywood.

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