Norrington to helm live-action adaptation of Marvel Comics character

NEW YORK — Coming aboard the most expensive film in which it has ever been involved, Dimension Films will co-finance the $75 million pic “Ghost Rider” with Crystal Sky Prods. and distribute the film domestically.

David Goyer is penning the live-action adaptation of the Marvel Comics character and Stephen Norrington will helm the pic. Duo was behind the hit New Line adaptation of the Marvel franchise “Blade.”

Crystal Sky Entertainment CEO Steven Paul, Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad and Jon Voight are producing “Ghost Rider,” and the studio is trying to land Johnny Depp to play the title role. If he doesn’t commit, they’ll move on to another A-list actor. Dimension is committed to begin production by spring. Norrington and Goyer are exec producers.

“Ghost Rider” focuses on motorcycle stuntman Johnny Blaze, who makes a pact with a dark force, selling his soul to save his girlfriend. When the bargain goes sour and the girl isn’t saved, Blaze is transformed, gaining raging superpowers.

It’s Dimension’s first venture with Crystal Sky, which will handle foreign rights and is financing half the film.

Midnight call

“I had always been fans and friends of Bob Weinstein and his brother Harvey, and fascinated by what they can accomplish when they set their minds to it,” Paul said. “Many studios were aggressively trying to pick up the domestic rights, and Bob called me at midnight while I was in Germany, and when I say that when Bob wants something, it’s impossible to resist, I mean it. He said, roll up your sleeves, I want to sign something tonight. Nine and one half hours later, we had a deal, a substantial one for them.”

Dimension is also getting in business with Marvel for the first time, though both Bob Weinstein and Arad note they are a good fit because of an emphasis on genre pics and potential franchise fare.

A sequel to “Blade” will be directed by Guillermo del Toro, with Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson reprising their vampire hunter roles, based on a script by Goyer.

Spidey ready to spin

Columbia starts production in November on “Spider-Man,” the Sam Raimi-directed pic that stars Tobey Maguire as the webslinger, and Universal is looking for a director on “The Incredible Hulk,” with “X-Men” scribe David Hayter rewriting the Michael France/Michael Tolkin script.

Aside from an “X-Men” sequel, Fox has two front-burner Marvel projects: “Fantastic Four,” with Raja Gosnall directing Sam Hamm’s script, and “Silver Surfer,” which “Seven” scribe Andrew Kevin Walker is penning.

Dimension co-chair Bob Weinstein, prexy Cary Granat and execs Michael Helfant and Andrew Gumpert brokered the deal for the studio.

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