DiCaprio starrer eyes Jan. start date with Spielberg at helm

DreamWorks Pictures’ “Catch Me If You Can” is about to net the rarely caught Steven Spielberg as its director and producer.

“Catch Me” was turning out to be an apt name for the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer. Many big-name directors have been bandied about for the job, including Gore Verbinski, Lasse Hallstrom, Milos Forman and Cameron Crowe.

A compromise is being hammered out that will clear a producing credit logjam on the project, allowing Spielberg to reorganize his sked and take the helm of the true crime tale. Project is eyeing a January start.

Adapted by Jeff Nathanson, “Catch Me” is based on the autobiography of Frank Abagnale Jr., the youngest man ever to be placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. The 1980 memoir was initially optioned in 1990 by Michel Shane, who later went on to launch Magellan Filmed Entertainment with Anthony Romano.

In 1997, Barry Kemp’s Paramount-based Bungalow 78 Prods. optioned Abagnale’s autobiography from Magellan, agreeing to produce it with them and bringing in Nathanson to pen the script.

Now, Romano, Shane and Kemp will step aside to become executive producers. This arrangement will allow DreamWorks’ production co-head Walter Parkes to come aboard to produce the pic with Spielberg.

“Catch Me” recounts the exploits of Abagnale, a charming charlatan and counterfeiter who ran away from home at 16 and embarked on a 1964-66 romp as a Pan Am co-pilot, a gig that allowed him to hitch more than 2 million miles without paying a cent.

Striking poses

Along the way, he also purported to be the chief resident pediatrician at a Georgia hospital, posed as an assistant attorney general in Louisiana and landed a professorship of American history at a French university.

By the time he was apprehended, Abagnale Jr. had kited $6 million worth of bad checks in all 50 states and in 26 foreign countries — all of it before his 18th birthday.

Now in his mid-60s, Abagnale has spent 25 years lecturing to the FBI Academy and to corporations around the country on fraud prevention. “What I did 35 years ago is 200 times easier today,” Abagnale told Daily Variety last month. “I never allow my kids to use e-commerce. I tell them that the Internet is a very bad neighborhood.”

Spielberg is repped in the deal by CAA, Nathanson by UTA; DiCaprio is managed by AMG.

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