CRAIG ROSENBERG HAS SCARED UP a Newmarket deal to write and direct “Nevermore: The Nightmares of Edgar Allan Poe,” a thriller in which the famous writer plays the prime role in a murder mystery. The Neal Moritz-produced film puts Poe in the action much the way the Bard was used in “Shakespeare in Love.” Grieving the traumatic death of his wife in Baltimore, Poe watches as a series of murders unfold in town that replicate exact details from his fictional horror. The mystery is populated with characters from his own books, as he stays with Roderick Usher from “Fall of the House of Usher.” The question becomes: Could Poe, driven mad with grief, be committing the murders himself, with his imagination having gone beyond the written page?

Many of the same themes are present in “Memento,” the Guy Pearce-Joey Pantoliano drama directed by Chris Nolan that Newmarket has distribbed to cult hit status. Rosenberg hatched the film out of his personal devotion to Poe, who was the subject of the screen scribe’s senior thesis at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Though horror is a passion, Rosenberg’s early Hollywood screen sales centered on romantic comedies, and he made his directing debut with the romancer “Hotel de Love.” He got back to his roots by writing the thriller “Asylum,” which DreamWorks bought with producer Moritz attached. A few other DW thriller assignments led to Rosenberg’s hiring as the first writer on “Jurassic Park III” when director Joe Johnston was brought aboard. Rosenberg is currently scripting for Dimension and FilmColony’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” a retelling of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic that Wes Craven is slated to direct. Rosenberg is also adapting the Tim Wilson novel “I Spy” for Warner Bros. and producer Mark Canton. The novel is about a teacher, who, 20 years after witnessing the brutal murder of her parents, begins to suspect that the father of her fave student is the killer. Rosenberg is repped by Original Artists.

IMAGEMOVERS JUMPS ON: Imagemovers has saddled up for the horse race film “Il Palio.” The film was pitched by “Charlie’s Angels” scribe Ryan Rowe, who’s crafting a contemporary romantic adventure set against the Palio, a bareback horse race run twice per year in the town square of Siena, Italy. The race has roots going back 700 years, and a disgraced American rodeo rider who visits Tuscany to inherit a house finds himself a contestant in the fabled race. The film will be produced by UTA-repped Linda Goldstein, who’s now working in Nova Scotia as a producer on the Lasse Hallstrom-directed Kevin Spacey-starrer “The Shipping News.” “This began 20 years ago when I visited Siena and was told about the race, and that everything is legal except guns and knives,” said Rowe. “What’s great about it is that it’s not some pageant put on for tourists, but rather a race just for pride among the 17 neighborhoods competing against each other. And the riders cannot be from Siena, which makes it the perfect opening for an American. There is all kinds of scheming, deals struck, but there is no betting and it winds up being a fair race.” Producer Goldstein got married in the town and bonded with Rowe over the concept. Imagemover’s Jennifer Perrini and company partner Jack Rapke made the deal with Rowe’s reps Rima Greer and Above the Line Agency.

WOLF IN PHILLY: In between appearing in Woody Allen’s currently shooting movie and playing Heather Locklear’s love interest in three episodes of “Spin City” to air during sweeps, Scott Wolf is toplining the indie drama “Emmett’s Mark,” a film he’s shooting in Philadelphia costarring Tim Roth, Gabriel Byrne, and Khandi Alexander (“The Corner”). The drama, written and directed by Keith Snyder and produced by Bradley Fuller and Graham Taylor, stars Wolf as a detective who’s tracking a serial killer. He learns that he’s suffering from a terminal illness and rather than wait to be debilitated, hires an assassin to put him out of his misery while he’s still healthy and has, he hopes, caught his murder suspect. When the detective learns he’s going to live, he tries to call off the hit. Alexander plays his partner, Byrne plays the middleman who contracts the hit and Roth plays a withdrawn security guard hired for the mercy killing. Wolf’s repped by WMA and Envision Ent.

MICHELLE SLIPPED A ‘MICKEY’: Michelle Johnson, who has played supporting roles in a slew of studio films, has landed the female lead alongside Harry Connick Jr. in “Mickey,” the film that marks John Grisham’s return to the screen. Grisham wrote the script and is producing the film with Hugh Wilson, who is directing the feature. Johnson, who made her debut in “Blame It on Rio,” is repped by AMG.

CASTINGS: Stanley DeSantis, the actor-turned licensed T-shirt magnate who’s now the licensed producer of “Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” wear, is also logging screen time alongside Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer in New Line’s “I Am Sam.” DeSantis is still working with Nathan Lane on “The Great One,” a Jackie Gleason biopic that could get a boost by Lane’s success in the Broadway smash “The Producers” … Standup comic and actor Larry Miller is coming to Broadway with Jon Lovitz to replace John Ritter and Henry Winkler in Neil Simon’s “Dinner Party,” a role he takes after completing “Max Keeble’s Big Move” for Disney, a film he stars in with Alex Linz. Miller, who’ll next be seen onscreen in MGM’s “What’s the Worst That Can Happen?” with Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito, just completed a run of the play “The Comic,” in which he played an aging standup facing the end of his career. Miller’s also doing a turn for Garry Marshall in “The Princess Diaries,” his first work with Marshall since “Pretty Woman.”

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