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Judd pencils in ‘Notebook’

Sheridan helming for New Line

NEW YORK — Ashley Judd is in negotiations to star for director Jim Sheridan in “The Notebook,” New Line’s adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ bestselling novel. Sources said she will be paid north of $4 million range for the film, which will shoot in the spring.

Judd has been offered numerous projects since “Double Jeopardy,” the surprise hit of the early fall, which has grossed $115 million domestically. That pic was strong with the female and date audience, which New Line is targeting with “Notebook.” Since the tale takes place in the South, Judd was a natural top choice.

“The Notebook” has been one of the highest profile projects in town since Jeremy Leven turned in a script and Steven Spielberg nearly committed to direct it. That plan fell through, and New Line hooked Sheridan, who has polished the Leven script and is directing his first film since the Daniel Day-Lewis starrer “The Boxer.”

Tale retold

The story revolves around a retired salesman who regularly visits an old woman in a nursing home, each time taking a notebook off a shelf to read a story about two men vying for the same woman in 1940s North Carolina. It soon becomes clear that the patient is the woman in the notebook. Afflicted with Alzheimer’s, she greets the tale as a new one each time it’s read to her, and her narrator is the man who ended up with her, though which guy that is remains a secret until the end.

Mark Johnson is producing the film, which is being shepherded by New Line execs Lynn Harris and Michael De Luca. Casting is under way for the two male roles.

In the public ‘Eye’

Judd will next be seen alongside Ewan McGregor in the Stephan Elliott-directed “Eye of the Beholder” for Destination. That film opens in January, and she recently wrapped the Matt Williams-directed Fox film “Where the Heart Is,” co-starring Natalie Portman, which opens in April.

Judd is represented by William Morris’ Michelle Stern.

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