Arnie jumps for Lion’s laffer ‘Ump’

Hyde Park, Beacon join forces for comedy

NEW YORK — Before he returns to cyborg duty in “Terminator 3,” Arnold Schwarzenegger is circling the MGM black comedy “Ump,” a film that is coming together quickly with heavyweight producers behind it.

MGM has long considered the comedy a plum project, trying several times to put it together, with writers Robert Harling, Jeff Nathanson, Adam Brooks and Harley Peyton all doing drafts. The change in momentum comes with the emergence of Hyde Park partners David Hoberman and Ashok Amritraj poised to join forces with Beacon Communications chairman Armyan Bernstein, marking the first time the production companies will work together.

Based on a novel by Jim Cohen, “Ump” is the story of a hitman who is called the Ump because he adheres to a strict set of rules. After eliminating two-thirds of a triplet mob boss team, the Ump hides out in a local town in New Jersey. The townfolk embrace his no-nonsense ways, and the hitman winds up cleaning up the troubled town while he waits for the chance to finish the rubout trifecta. It would mark the first comedy in a long time for Schwarzenegger.

Bernstein previously worked with Schwarzenegger on the Beacon drama “End of Days.”

No deals are done and it has not been determined whether Hyde Park or Beacon would provide financing in exchange for foreign rights. But the tentative plan is to hire one of several directors circling the project, who’ll oversee a polish and get the film into production by November.

Schwarzenegger would then follow with “Terminator 3,” the Intermedia and C-2 Prods. film which will be directed by Jonathan Mostow and produced by Mario Kassar, Andy Vajna and Hal Lieberman. Mostow has been working on the script with Tedi Sarafian, who was hired by the producers to draft a sequel scenario long before Schwarzenegger signed on to reprise his most famous role. Schwarzenegger is repped by WMA. MGM declined comment.

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