U, Nichols take kindly to ‘Hearts’ redo for fall

Williams eyeing project

NEW YORK — Universal is moving toward a fall start on a remake of “Kind Hearts and Coronets,” the 1949 comedy that originally starred Alec Guinness in eight different roles. Mike Nichols has been developing the script with his old writing partner Elaine May, and she is working on a new draft, which the studio will evaluate before giving a greenlight.

Comedy is about a black sheep who sets out to kill the eight kin who stand between him and a family fortune and title. Guinness played all eight of the intended victims, and, while there has been no cast set, Robin Williams has expressed interest in the project and working again with Nichols, who directed “The Birdcage.” Nichols recently completed the Garry Shandling starrer “What Planet Are You From?” for Columbia.

Two remakes

The fast-developing film gives Universal two high-profile remakes that could be headed for fall starts. The other is “Charade,” a remake of the 1963 thriller that Jonathan Demme is developing as a vehicle for Will Smith. The original starred Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn and Walter Matthau, and the remake is being scripted by Jessica Bendinger, who wrote “Cheer Fever” for U.

The studio is hopeful that both films might be ready to start production late this year or early next, but studio sources caution they won’t be rushed. After all, the last time Universal blindly trusted A-list directors without riding herd on scripts, the result was the disastrous holiday combination of the Martin Brest-directed “Meet Joe Black” and the George Miller-helmed “Babe 2: Pig in the City.”

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