Diesel to drive ‘Riddick’

'Fast' star to reprise sci-fi role

NEW YORK — Vin Diesel is about to put his “x” on a contract that betters his $10 million “XXX” deal.

Diesel will earn north of $11 million to star as the title character in “The Chronicles of Riddick,” the sequel to the sci-fi pic “Pitch Black.” Universal is prepping the film as a summer 2003 tentpole.

Original producers Scott Kroopf, Ted Field and Tom Engelman of Radar Pictures will be back, and Diesel and his One Race Prods. compatriot George Zakk are likely to have producing capacities. Scripted by David Hayter, “The Chronicles of Riddick” will look to land a director for a spring start.

When it became clear U had a winner in “The Fast and the Furious,” which has grossed north of $140 million domestically and is still rolling out abroad, the studio brought in scribe Hayter, the “X-Men” screenwriter who has sequelized that hit film for Fox. Hayter’s draft was strong enough to get U brass to the bargaining table with Diesel’s reps.

Because his per-picture salary has been rising so quickly, the dealmaking wasn’t easy, with the studio and Diesel’s reps still working out the backend percentage on “Riddick” late Tuesday.

Diesel had been weighing rival offers from Fox and New Regency to play the title role in “Daredevil,” the Mark Steven Johnson-directed adaptation of the Marvel Comics serial about a blind lawyer who becomes a superhero.

Diesel instead chose to reprise the Riddick role he originated in the David Twohy-directed “Pitch Black,” that of a brooding convict who was being transported as part of a space mission that got shipwrecked on a mysterious planet.

Scripted by Twohy and Jim and Ken Wheat, the original was a modest-budget film set up at Polygram. When Polygram was absorbed into Universal, the studio got behind the film and it turned a profit on a domestic gross of around $40 million.

U production president Scott Stuber is shepherding the sequel with senior veep Donna Langley.

Diesel is repped by Endeavor and the Firm, Hayter by WMA.

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