Yu: head of ‘State’

'Bride of Chucky' helmer leads Jackson pic

Chucky has proven lucky for Ronny Yu, who has been inked to direct Samuel L. Jackson in the action-comedy “The 51st. State” for Alliance Atlantis Pictures.

The Hong Kong helmer came to Hollywood attention with last year’s horror hit “Bride of Chucky” for Universal. He has directed more than 30 pics in Hong Kong, including the MGM action fantasy “Warriors of Virtue.”

“State” is being produced by Jackson, Artists Management Group’s Julie Yorn, Eli Selden and Stephanie Davis, and Focus Films’ David Pupkewitz and Malcolm Kohl.

In “State,’ Jackson plays an American master chemist and streetwise entrepreneur who heads to England with the aim of setting up one last drug deal. But what he thought would be straightforward becomes complicated as he gets caught in a web of double-crossing and inept swindlers while an anti-American local hitman escorts him around Liverpool.

“Ronny Yu’s cinematic humor, combined with Samuel L. Jackson’s dry wit and this irreverent script will make ‘The 51st. State’ an original action-comedy,” said Alliance Atlantis Pictures president Andras Hamori.

“State” was written by first-time scribe Stel Pavlou while he was working in an liquor store in the north of England. Pavlou always envisaged Jackson in the lead role, and, taking a chance, he sent the actor a draft of the script. Surprisingly, Jackson committed to star, and even pledged to produce the film himself to get it made.

Pic is slated to begin lensing in Los Angeles and Liverpool early next year, making it one of AMG’s first pics as producer.

Alliance Atlantis will finance the thriller and handle distribution in the U.K. and Canada. Alliance Atlantis Pictures Intl. will sell the rest of the world.

Last week, Alliance Atlantis signed Danish helmer Thomas Vinterberg to direct his first English lingo pic, “The Third Lie.”

Gersh Agency’s Richard Arlook and attorney Jason Sloan repped Yu; ICM’s Toni Howard and attorney Deborah Klein repped Jackson. Nick La Terza, Alliance Atlantis senior VP of business and legal, negotiated for the distrib.

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