Banderas toplining; Ratner at helm

In a preemptive bid, New Line Cinema is near a deal with scribe Seth Pearlman to purchase his spec script “Billy Two Sugars.”

The writer will be paid a mid-six-figure sum.

Helmer Brett Ratner (“Rush Hour”), who has a first-look deal at New Line, is attached to direct, and Antonio Banderas is attached to star.

Pic will be produced by Ratner and his Rat Entertainment in association with Banderas’ Green Moon Prods. Green Moon’s Diane Sillan Isaacs will also take a producer credit, while Pearlman will serve as co-producer.

Story revolves around the lowly driver for a powerful Cuban drug lord in Miami, who after suffering years of abuse at the hands of his boss, sets out to obtain money and respect by putting together a gang of dysfunctional losers to rip off the honcho.

Pearlman’s credits include “Leo,” co-written with Luc Besson and to be produced by Besson’s Seaside Prods., and “Doubles,” rewritten for Besson and in active development at Fox.

Fine Line Features, in association with Green Moon, is in discussions to acquire another Pearlman script, “Ockham’s Razor.”

Banderas is currently shooting the indie pic “The Body” and is scheduled to begin lensing “Dancing in the Dark” at MGM opposite Angelina Jolie, to be helmed by Michael Cristofer (“Body Shots”). Banderas is also attached to star in “The Phantom of the Opera,” which helmer Shekhar Kapur hopes to put into production next year.

Ratner is currently shooting the Nick Cage starrer “Family Man” for Beacon and Universal.

New Line’s senior veep of production Jay Stern and execs Cindy Guidry and Matt Moore will oversee “Billy Two Sugars” for the mini-major.

Alan Wertheimer of Armstrong, Hirsch, Jakoway, Tyerman and Wertheimer negotiated Pearlsman’s deal, while David Alper, senior veep of business affairs, handled New Line’s end of the pact.

Pearlman, Ratner and Banderas are all repped by CAA.

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