BERESFORD HEADED HOME: Aussie helmer Bruce Beresford has agreed to direct for Warner Bros. an epic love story framed around his home continent’s penal colony origins.

Beresford is teaming with producer Dylan Sellers on an untitled film which follows the storyline made famous by “Mary of Botany Bay.” The film will be written by Patrick Edgeworth, who recently adapted his stage play “Boswell for the Defense” into a film Beresford will direct in April starring Michael Caine.

The WB project covers the fact-based story of a man and woman sent from Britain in the 1700s to the Botany Bay penal colony, and their daring attempt to escape. The filmmakers are writing it with an eye toward Heath Ledger, who’s met on it but won’t make a decision until a script is completed.

Beresford, who just completed “Bride of the Wind” with Vincent Perez for Total Film Group, will follow “Boswell for the Defense” with “Miss Potter,” a Richard Maltby-scripted film about Beatrix Potter, also for Total Film Group.

After that, he’s been booked by Endeavor to do the WB drama, which is being overseen by the studio’s Kevin McCormick. Sellers, who has a first look deal at Warner Bros., comes to the love story after producing “Valentine’s Day” and “The Replacements” for the studio.

RATHBUN, PETERSEN LINK UP: After leaving the executive suites of Warner Bros. after nearly a decade, Diana Rathbun has rejoined the fray, taking the post of consulting executive of Radiant Prods., Wolfgang Petersen’s WB.-based shingle.

Petersen brought her into the fold after working with her on “The Perfect Storm.” She had actually exited WB before that, but came back as a consultant. Since then, she’s recovered from 13 years working as a studio exec and ICM agent by traveling.

That was until Petersen and his Radiant Prods. prexy Samuel Dickerman shored up the company ranks after making a first-look directing deal at WB.

“I had such a wonderful experience with Wolfgang, (and) I wanted to stay involved,” said Rathbun. “I missed the moviemaking part of it and after turning down a lot of jobs as an executive, I told Wolfgang, ‘Only for you.'”

She starts immediately, and while she’ll be a liaison between the filmmaker and studio, she’ll also be active working with Dickerman to find projects Petersen wants to direct.

FROM “PROJECT 3″ TO “PROJECT FALL”: The prospect of an actors strike has prompted Revolution to halt plans to squeeze in a spring start for “Project 3,” a much-touted thriller that will reunite “The Mexican” star Julia Roberts with director Gore Verbinski and screenwriter Joel Wyman.

The trio sparked to the project lightning quick when Verbinski’s plans to do the DreamWorks pic “Catch Me If You Can” stalled because Leonardo DiCaprio wouldn’t be finished with “Gangs of New York” on time. Roberts committed to “Project 3″ almost immediately, before Wyman even wrote it. He recently turned in what’s called a terrific first draft, but when it was storyboarded, the film’s 70-day shoot would have cut too close to the June 30 SAG expiration date.

Pic will be the first project Roberts and Verbinski do when the strike is either averted or settled. Roberts, who just snared an Oscar nom for “Erin Brockovich” and opens in “The Mexican” with Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini on March 2, is currently shooting the Steve Soderbergh-directed remake of “Ocean’s Eleven.”

RYDER ON TAP FOR “DEEDS?” Winona Ryder is looming likely as Adam Sandler’s costar in “Deeds,” the Columbia pic inspired by the 1936 Frank Capra classic “Mr. Deeds Goes To Town.”

Sandler’s writing partner, Tim Herlihy, contemporized the Gary Cooper classic, making the leading man a rube who inherits a controlling interest in a multinational media corporation before injecting honesty into the various divisions.

Ryder’s been offered the role of a hardbitten tabloid reporter who falls in love with the goofball. Steve Brill directs and Doug Belgrad is overseeing the project, which starts production in March.

CASTINGS: After playing a memorable villain who battled Mel Gibson in “The Patriot,” and now opening this Friday as a drag queen in the Keanu Reeves/Charlize Theron-starrer “Sweet November,” Jason Isaacs heads to Venice this weekend to join the Mike Figgis improvisational film “Hotel.” Isaacs will play an actor who drops out of a film to do a big Hollywood picture. After he finishes, Isaacs will join a real big Hollywood picture, “Black Hawk Down,” the Revolution drama directed by best director Oscar nominee Ridley Scott. Isaacs will next be seen in the John Woo-directed MGM drama “Windtalkers”… Kathleen Robertson has been cast by Keenen Ivory Wayans for a lead in “Scary Movie 2″ at Dimension. She just landed the female lead opposite Mark Ruffalo (“You Can Count On Me”) in the sexual drama “XX/XY” for writer/director Austin Chick, and the Gersh-repped actress just completed the Bill Murray-starrer “Speaking of Sex” for director John McNaughton. She’ll also take a role in the Sean Penn-starrer “Sam I Am” at New Line.

DISHINGS: After Yale law prof Stephen Carter landed a two-book Random House deal pegged at nearly $4 million, film scouts were speed reading the leaked 850 pages of the first novel, “The Emperor of Ocean Park.” The book, described as an African-American “Prince of Tides,” is about a man’s memories of childhood vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, intertwined with a judge’s murder. The combo is a sprawling tale that will eventually be shopped by CAA, working with Janklow-Nesbit.

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