Screenplay is stumbling block

Buxom cyber-explorer Lara Croft is inching her way to the bigscreen: Paramount Pictures is in advanced negotiations to enlist Simon West (“The General’s Daughter,” “Con Air”) to direct “Tomb Raider,” an event-film actioner based on the popular vidgame series.

Nearly two years ago, Paramount won a bidding war for global film rights to Eidos Interactive’s bestselling games “Tomb Raider” and “Tomb Raider 2″ (Daily Variety, March 18, 1998). Since then, “Tomb Raider 3″ and “Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation” have been released, and the series continues as one of the most popular vidgames of all time.

It remains unclear how close to a start date the producers are. Sources say the screenplay — which bears similarities to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — remains the stumbling block. But in tapping West, that may soon change. The picture remains on Paramount’s fast track — though certainly not a track fast enough for a summer 2000 release, the date for which the pic was originally slated.

Producers Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin are still on board and will work with West and scribes Michael Werb and Michael Colleary (“Face/Off”) on the rewrite.

Earlier in the year the producers were developing the script with helmer Stephen Herek (“Mr. Holland’s Opus”) and scribes Patrick Massett and John Zinman. When Herek signed on to Warner Bros.’ “Metal God,” the producers needed to find a new director.

West is currently developing “The Prisoner” for Universal. Prior to his feature film work, West helmed television commercials, including the Budweiser spot featuring dancing ants.

He is repped by Endeavor.

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