Dish: Dimension cages ‘Ghost’

Nicolas Cage is in early negotiations to star in “Ghost Rider,” the live-action adaptation of the Marvel Comics franchise at Dimension Films. The $75 million film, which is expected to be the most expensive film in Dimension history, is quickly coming together for a fall start with director Steve Norrington, who helmed the Marvel adaptation “Blade” for New Line.

“Ghost Rider” is a drama about a motorcycle stuntman named Johnny Blaze, who sells his soul to a dark force to save the life of his girlfriend. When the pact goes awry, Blaze becomes a fiery demonlike entity who takes out his wrath on bad guys. The film’s a co-production between Crystal Sky Entertainment and Marvel Studios, with Marvel’s Avi Arad producing with Crystal Sky’s Steven Paul and Jon Voight. David Goyer, who scripted “Blade,” has written the script for “Ghost Rider” and will likely be executive producer.

The film becomes one of several Marvel properties headed toward production. Fox is prepping an “X-Men” sequel with director Bryan Singer and the original cast expected back, Columbia has wrapped “Spider-Man” with director Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire playing the webslinger, and Universal is moving forward on an “Incredible Hulk” film with “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” helmer Ang Lee preparing to make the superhero saga his next directing effort. Like those other Marvel efforts, “Ghost Rider” will be a special effects extravaganza. Cage, who’ll next be seen in the John Woo-directed “Windtalkers” and the John Madden-directed “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,” is repped by CAA and Brillstein-Grey.

MILLER OKS MOVIE “BRIDGE”: “Cider House Rules” producer Richard Gladstein’s FilmColony has optioned rights to Arthur Miller’s acclaimed play “A View From the Bridge” for a feature that will star Anthony LaPaglia, who won a Tony for his performance in the Broadway revival of the drama. The producer and thesp got the rights after meeting with Miller in Connecticut recently, and they’ve brought in Andrew Bovell to write the script. The project’s development has been seeded by Australian film company RGMplus, whose Wendy Cohen and Devesh Chetty will be exec producers. Bovell will soon open his own play, “Speaking in Tongues” in Gotham, and also scripted “Lantana,” a film now being bid on by distributors, starring LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush and Barbara Hershey. Gladstein confirmed the deal and said the rights were made available by Miller because of his affinity to LaPaglia. Gladstein and LaPaglia asked Miller to do the scripting himself, but the famed playwright drew the line there. “He said he doesn’t have too many new projects left in him, and I didn’t want to deprive the world of the next work by Arthur Miller,” said Gladstein, who’s also teaming with “Cider House” cohorts John Irving and Lasse Hallstrom on an adaptation of Irving’s upcoming novel “The Fourth Hand” at Miramax. Miller will eyeball Bovell’s script, and Gladstein and LaPaglia will then look to land a director and a studio to finance the film.

HECHE-ING HER TV BETS: A stint on “Ally McBeal” has warmed Anne Heche to the idea of regular series duty. Heche, who publishes her Scribners autobiography “Call Me Crazy” in September and will next be seen starring opposite Denzel Washington in “John Q” and opposite Christina Ricci in “Prozac Nation,” will begin meeting with heads of networks and studios next month. The goal is to seal a deal to develop a series for her to star in. Heche has done both drama and comedies with films like “Wag the Dog” to “Six Days Seven Nights,” and is flexible on the format. She’s been courted by the webs for several years but only warmed to the idea after being invited by David E. Kelley to do an arc of “McBeal,” Kelley is certain to be one of the stops she makes on her TV tour, Dish hears.

FROM RAVE TO BEAT GENERATION: The San Francisco-based filmmaking team of director Greg Harrison and Danielle Renfrew used the success of their rave-scene debut film “Groove” to form Map Point Pictures and hatch two more projects, one of which takes them from the rave to the beat generation. Harrison said that the Sony Pictures Classics-distributed “Groove” and soundtrack spinoffs enabled them to return a 43% profit margin to investors on the film, and emboldened them to form a company and move forward with two more projects. One’s with Doonesbury comic strip creator Garry Trudeau on “ETC,” a comedy he wrote years ago that was being developed as a directing vehicle for Alan Pakula until the director’s untimely death. Now at Fox Searchlight, the comedy drew Harrison and Renfrew, who are working with Trudeau to polish a script that will likely be their next feature effort. It’s a dark comedy whose title refers to acronym Experimental Treatment Center, and focuses on scientists who try to find a cure for Noorvik’s disease, a fictional affliction expected to become reality in the future because of massive changes in the environment. “It’s got the tone of ‘M*A*S*H*,’ with a serious subject made palatable by biting humor and satire, which Garry does exceptionally well,” said Harrison. The Map Point partners are also working with screenwriter Benjamin Brand on “Minor Characters,” a Propaganda Films adaptation of Joyce Johnson’s memoir of coming of age in the beat generation, which she witnessed closeup as Jack Kerouac’s girlfriend. “I had always been interested in exploring the beat generation, and her story provides a great way to do that,” said Harrison, who with Renfrew had their deals made by WMA and Alex Kohner.

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