Comedy based on Ripley trilogy

John Schultz, director of Fox’s current release “Drive Me Crazy,” will next conduct “Mayhem” for Fox Searchlight Pictures.

The black comedy-thriller should serve as Schultz’s next pic, which depending on cast availability, could go before the cameras in Europe this spring.

Stephen Uklaki and Antoine de Claremont-Tonnere are producing “Mayhem,” which is loosely based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel “Ripley Under Ground” — the second in the Ripley trilogy that also includes “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” which Anthony Minghella adapted and directed for Paramount and Miramax.

Blake Herron’s screenplay details the schemes of a resourceful American man living in London. After his hot young artist friend is killed, the American covers up the crime and tries to keep the friend’s name alive in order to exploit his legacy and reap millions in the process.

While there is no start date at this time, Searchlight has begun submitting the project to potential cast members, and Schultz is understood to be scouting locations.

“We’re excited that John will be bringing his same exuberant energy to this sleek, sexy caper as he has brought to his past work,” said Searchlight production exec Claudia Lewis, who is overseeing the project for the specialized banner.

Schultz’s sophomore outing, the under-$10 million romantic comedy “Drive Me Crazy,” has taken in more than $15 million since its release Oct. 1. Pic stars Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier, a possible contender for the “Mayhem” lead.

Schultz, who is repped by CAA, made his directorial debut on “Bandwagon,” an indie comedy he also wrote and produced. After screening in competition in Sundance, “Bandwagon” was later picked up by Lakeshore Entertainment.

Herron, who also is repped by CAA, wrote and directed the indie pic “Texas Funeral” and currently is writing “The Bourne Identity” for director Doug Liman and Universal Pictures.

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