Vahradian: When 'stakes are high, he's the guy you want'

NEW YORK — The Walt Disney Co. is so sweet on scribe Jonathan Hensleigh (“Armageddon”), it will cough up $1.75 million against roughly $2.25 million for him to reconceive the high-concept project “Gemini Man.”

From an original idea by Darren Lemke, who penned a draft of the script set 20 years in the future, “Gemini Man” centers on an older man who is hunted by his younger self. Pic will be produced by Don Murphy.

Nina Jacobson, prexy of the Buena Vista Motion Picture Group, will oversee the film along with exec veep Mark Vahradian and director of production Doug Short.

“I am preserving the kernel of the concept,” Hensleigh told Daily Variety, noting that his work will not rely at all on previous drafts. “But the basis of my story is that I am contemporizing it — it’s happening right now.

” ‘Gemini Man,’ ” continued an enthusiastic Hensleigh, “with its special effects elements, is simply the best action concept in Hollywood right now.”

Jacobson added, “We’re lucky to have a writer with Jonathan’s track record and instincts on a movie that means so much to us.”

“Hensleigh has delivered for us again and again,” said Vahradian. “When the stakes are high, he’s the guy you want.”

Mouse passion

“Gemini Man” has been a Mouse House passion project over the past 2-1/2 years. Making use of its high-tech Secret Lab, the studio tested to see how well CGI effects could transform an actor into his 20-year-younger double. Disney had hoped to interest Mel Gibson in the project’s center role, but no actor is yet attached.

Hensleigh, who has been lying low since exec producing Disney’s “Gone in Sixty Seconds” last summer, is one of the biz’s most high-profile scribes. His credits include “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” “The Saint,” “Jumanji” and “Jumanji II.” In addition, he shared writing duties on “Con Air” and “The Rock.”

Repped by ICM, Hensleigh at one point had been developing with Touchstone TV the drama series “The Big Names.” The rights for that project have reverted back to the scribe, and he continues to develop it for television.

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