Bay jumps on kidnap thriller

NEW YORK — After completing photography on “Pearl Harbor,” Michael Bay’s Disney-based Bay Films has acquired an untitled thriller that Bay and Bay Films veep Jennifer Klein will develop, with hopes that Bay will direct.

The script by newcomer Stuart Alexander concerns the kidnapping of a high-powered attorney’s wife; the ransom for her safe release is his suicide.

The project was bought on the basis of a 25-page outline. Alexander has finished the first draft, with the film being supervised by Disney Motion Picture Group president Nina Jacobson and exec veep Mark Vahradian.

That film could be the next one Bay directs — another candidate is the dark comedy he’s developing, “Gory Details” — but he won’t likely take another feature before the possible SAG strike next summer. His next directing job will be the pilot of “Quantico,” a drama about the FBI Academy for Twentieth TV and FBC, which he’s exec producing with Dario Scardapane, who wrote the script. Klein’s producing as well.

Bay nearly made “Phone Booth,” the Fox 2000 drama with a similar ticking-clock premise. Joel Schumacher is still trying to pull that together.

Though scripter Larry Cohen told this column that Bay disconnected because he wanted to move the drama from its single phone booth location, the director denied it. “Will (Smith) and I were ready to go, taking $500,000 each and backend, but we wanted Fox to put more money in the script to make the words better and the studio wouldn’t. Every actor loved the idea, but if the words weren’t there, that film wouldn’t work.”

That Bay is making new deals under his Mouse pact indicates that there has been some healing of the bruised feelings from when Disney rescinded a “Pearl Harbor” greenlight and didn’t restore it until he and producer Jerry Bruckheimer waived their fees and cut other costs. That duo agreed to work free until the pic covers its costs.

“It was pretty discouraging at the beginning and became an emotional roller coaster,” said Bay. “It was greenlit, then ungreenlit, then greenlit again, meaning I had to hire, fire, then rehire the whole crew. The whole film had a recipe for disaster, with so many locations. We worked with 60-year-old aircrafts, with hundreds of extras in the water around ships with explosives everywhere. But it was the best production experience I ever had, and we finished one day over schedule.”

Bay said the studio allowed him $135 million with an extra $5 million cushion. “There are no hard feelings with the studio. I’m happy the movie got made. I would have been miserable if it hadn’t.” While Bay’s best known for hardware-heavy hits like “Armageddon” and “The Rock,” “Pearl Harbor” will broaden his range. “The thing I really like about the movie is it’s shot with an old-fashioned feel, and women are responding to the love story,” he said.

As Bay zeroes in on the next feature, one he’s now dubious about is the Eric Roth-scripted Jon Peters-produced WB pic “Africa,” about the exploits of Richard Leakey. Said Bay: “After tourists were hacked to death in Rwanda, my girlfriend said no way. I don’t want to rush into another big movie right now. I’d just like to finish this one, do a few commercials, and the pilot.” Alexander was repped by Carlos Goodman of Lichter, Grossman, Nichols & Adler.

A TRAILER WITH ADJECTIVES: In ads for its unrated Darren Aronofsky-directed “Requiem for a Dream, “Artisan is stressing that underagers should stay away — a decision that might help ease the impact of a trailer for its Wayne Wang-directed “Center of the World.”

Even though the recent Capitol Hill scrutiny over racy movie marketing is fresh in mind, Artisan’s teaser is verbally explicit. The film’s stripper heroine, played by Molly Parker (“Sunshine”), opens the trailer by staring into a mirror and saying: “I have the tightest, wettest, hottest —– in the world.” That line is intercut with footage of the seamy stripper world, and the steamy 72-hour Vegas hotel room encounter with an Internet entrepreneur (played by “Boys Don’t Cry” star Peter Sarsgaard).

The “World” trailer is attached to the beginning of “Requiem.” Artisan argues that the teaser honors what pols asked of Hollywood studios: to keep racy marketing away from kids. Their marketing campaign is targeted strictly for adults, they say.

The Aronofsky pic was handed an NC-17, but Artisan will release it without a rating. Wang’s pic hasn’t yet been submitted for rating but could be in the same boat.

PAR’S ‘ARCH’ SUPPORT: Deborah Pratt, writer and producer of “Quantum Leap,” has sold her series script “Arch Angel” to Paramount Television. She’ll exec produce the drama as part of an overall commitment she recently signed with the studio. Pratt made the Par deal off her “Quantum” work and directing “Cora Unashamed,” which will launch Masterpiece Theatre’s “American Collection” on PBS Oct. 25. She also exec produced the USA Network version of the Sandra Bullock pic “The Net.”

LADY FOR “ZOOLANDER”: Christine Taylor’s landed the female lead in “Zoolander,” the Scott Rudin-produced male model comedy for Paramount. Pic directed by Ben Stiller, who stars with Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell. Stiller plays supermodel Derek Zoolander who’s unwittingly recruited by a rogue CIA faction to be a political assassin. His chief recruiter is a gorgeous woman purporting to be the model’s handler. That’s the part for the UTA-repped Taylor, who’s best known for playing Marsha in “The Brady Bunch Movie,” and for “The Craft” and “The Wedding Singer.” She’s managed by Handprint Ent and lawyered by Patty Felker.

DISHINGS: Annie L. Proulx’s “The Shipping News” is poised for a greenlight if Julianne Moore commits to star with Kevin Spacey for director Lasse Hallstrom. No deal just yet … The ascension of Hong Kong star Jet Li in Hollywood is startling, especially if his deal on the Revolution pic “The One” is actually the $9 million figure sources are saying it is. With other high-profile pics on deck — the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced “The Red World” is one, sequels for “The Matrix” and “The Green Hornet” are others — Li’s star and price will likely rise higher, given his foreign bankability … Scripters Larry Konner and Mark Rosenthal (“Mighty Joe Young”), who wrote “The Prisoner” for director Simon West, have come aboard to tweak the Bill Broyles script for “Planet of the Apes.” They also wrote the Fox pic “Around the World in 80 Days,” which was developed as an Ang Lee-directed pic but is now planned as an animated feature for the studio. The scribe team’s repped by Endeavor.

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