Thesp to help Batman franchise continue expansion

NEW YORK — Ashley Judd has agreed to play the felonious feline in “Catwoman,” an original film being rapidly developed at Warner Bros.

Judd signed on after a meeting last week with producer Denise DiNovi and Warners exec veep Kevin McCormick and worldwide production president Lorenzo di Bonaventura. John Rogers is penning the script.

While “The Matrix” threatens to displace it, “Batman” has been Warner Bros.’ most lucrative franchise, and “Catwoman” is the third recent attempt to add to the studio kitty. After the four globally lucrative “Batman” films, WB last fall put in motion two more Batfilms.

The studio hired “Requiem for a Dream” helmer Darren Aronofsky to write and direct a prequel about the Caped Crusader called “Batman: Year One,” focusing on the trials and tribulations of young Bruce Wayne’s early days as the Caped Crusader.

At the same time, Warners has “Remember the Titans” helmer Boaz Yakin developing “Batman Beyond,” based on the WB Kids Network animated show by Paul Dini and Alan Burnett, who are both involved. That series takes place 40 years in the future, when a retired Bruce Wayne coaches a young Caped Crusader.

Judd followed the hit “Double Jeopardy” by starring with Hugh Jackman in the Fox romantic comedy “Someone Like You,” which just posted a second-place finish in its opening weekend with an estimated $10.3 million. The WMA-repped Judd is about to start work co-starring with Sandra Bullock and Ellen Burstyn in the Callie Khouri-directed “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”

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