Pic to begin lensing after potential strike

NEW YORK — In a move that puts one of Hollywood’s biggest sequels on the fast track, Jonathan Mostow is negotiating to direct Arnold Schwarzenegger and Edward Furlong in “Terminator 3.” The film, which was set up at Intermedia by C-2 partners Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna, is on pace to begin production after the actors strike is either settled or averted.

C-2 and Intermedia have for the past two years been mobilizing two sequel giants, the other being “Basic Instinct 2.” Both films became viable when Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone signed to reprise their respective signature roles, but “Instinct 2″ seemed on a faster track when John McTiernan boarded, only to find difficulty finding a leading man all parties could agree upon.

After Benjamin Bratt moved on to star with Katie Holmes in “Abandon” and Pierce Brosnan took a pass, it is beginning to look as though the pic might wait until the fall, when a deeper pool of male leads will be available and eager.

If the right actor becomes available, “Basic” could start as late in May. Although MGM is aboard to distribute, it has no financial stake in the film. So with no studio money invested, a SAG waiver is possible for the Intermedia pic.

While sources said final deal terms with Mostow have to be ironed out, “Terminator 3″ might pull even with the other sequel. Mostow had several strong meetings with Schwarzenegger and seems an inspired choice. It’s a daunting task to succeed James Cameron after two “Terminators,” considered science fiction classics.

Mostow is a young director with just four films under his belt, but the last two, “Breakdown” and “U-571,” were seamlessly plotted nail-biters that were enhanced by special effects, qualities that were the hallmark of Cameron’s “Terminator” efforts.

Sources said Mostow and his producing partner, Hal Lieberman, are negotiating to step up to “T3,” with Lieberman producing the film with Kassar and Vajna. Scripted by Tedi Sarafian, “Terminator 3″ reportedly pits Schwarzenegger’s cyborg against an indestructible female robot.

Mostow and Lieberman are shepherding several other projects, including the high-profile Beacon Communications political thriller “Shadow Government,” being scripted by Dan Gordon (“The Hurricane”).

Though it’s believed to have the commitment of Schwarzenegger, “T3″ doesn’t have a domestic distribution deal sewn up yet, but sources said the pieces could fall in place quickly to get the long-awaited sequel rolling as Mostow’s next film.

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