Mendel unlocks ‘Prisoner’

McQuarrie set to pen script

In his first major assignment at Universal since moving his shingle from the Mouse House last September, Barry Mendel (“The Sixth Sense”) has committed to produce “The Prisoner,” with Oscar-winning scribe Chris McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) set to pen the screenplay.

Helmer Simon West (“The General’s Daughter”) is still attached to direct (Daily Variety, Nov. 14, 1999) the pic, based on the 1960s cult Brit TV series “The Prisoner” created by Patrick McGoohan. McGoohan, who starred in the original series, will serve as the project’s exec producer along with West. Co-producer is West’s veep of development Gib Polhemus.

Allegorical, controversial and even surreal, the television series was about a man who found himself trapped in a village where everyone has a number but no name. It addressed such themes as the individual and society, the philosophical nature of freedom, the concentration and abuse of power, and the destructive worship of progress.

Though McGoohan wrote a script in 1996, Mendel, McQuarrie and West have elected to return to the source material rather than the earlier screenplay.

“For me, this project is a huge responsibility because there is such a cult following for the show,” said Mendel. “But with Simon West and Chris McQuarrie it’s going to be a cool and commercial movie. When I came to Universal, this was exactly the kind of movie I wanted to do.”

Speaking to Daily Variety last November, West said: “My father turned me onto the series in the late ’60s, and I was so obsessed that when I visited my grandmother in Wales, I made her drive me four hours to the set.”

Along with Sam Mercer and M. Night Shyamalan, Mendel is currently producing writer/director Shyamalan’s follow-up to “The Sixth Sense” — “Unbreakable.” He is also onboard to produce the Jodie Foster-helmed “Flora Plum” for USA Films and scribe Hossein Amini’s “Shanghai” for Phoenix Pictures. His producing credits include “Rushmore.”

West is directing “Tomb Raider,” based on the video game, at Paramount. A vid helmer turned director, West’s credits outside of “The General’s Daughter” include”Con Air.”

In addition to “The Usual Suspects,” McQuarrie’s credits include “Public Enemy” (which he co-wrote with Michael Dugan and Bryan Singer) and the forthcoming pic, which he also directed for Artisan, “The Way of the Gun.” He is also one of the writers of Fox’s “X-Men,” due in theaters in July.

West is repped by Endeavor, McQuarrie by ICM.

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