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Shyamalan sees ‘Signs’ point to thesp Phoenix

'Gladiator' actor to replace Ruffalo

NEW YORK — Joaquin Phoenix will star with Mel Gibson in “Signs,” the supernatural thriller written and to be directed this fall by M. Night Shyamalan for Touchstone.

Phoenix, Oscar-nominated for his work in “Gladiator,” will replace Mark Ruffalo, who was forced to ankle the project because he is recovering from a minor ear operation.

“Signs,” which will begin shooting in October, is set in Bucks County, Pa., and revolves around the mysterious appearance of an array of enormous circles and lines carved into the crops of a farm family. Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy and Sam Mercer will produce.

While fall greenlights have been somewhat rare because of labor unrest in the spring, Disney execs found themselves with a plum picture when it made an eight-figure deal with Shyamalan the moment he delivered his finished screenplay (Daily Variety, April 26).

The studio moved decisively to lock down the picture by the filmmakers whose past two efforts for the studio, “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable,” posted a collective worldwide gross north of $900 million.

Since “Gladiator,” Phoenix has starred in the Gregor Jordan-directed “Buffalo Soldiers,” which is playing at the Toronto Film Festival, and recently completed “It’s All About Love,” starring with Claire Danes for director Thomas Vinterberg.

Phoenix is repped by the Iris Burton Agency and CAA.

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