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‘XXX’ marks spot for Jackson

Thesp joins Diesel in Cohen-helmed actioner

Samuel L. Jackson is poised to join Vin Diesel in “XXX,” the Rob Cohen-directed Revolution Studios drama that begins shooting in late November for July release.

Jackson will play a government agent who recruits and trains Diesel’s character for an undercover operation designed to infiltrate a Russian crime ring. The actioner is being described as an extreme sports version of James Bond, in that Diesel’s character is adept at stunts such as running a motorcycle up a building.

The film, already promoted on billboards, is a top priority at Revolution and came together quickly after the studio paid Diesel $10 million for the actor’s followup to summer hit “The Fast and the Furious,” directed by Cohen.

The talks were protracted –Diesel’s price quote ceiling was the $2.5 million he’d gotten for “Diablo” — but Revolution was able to make the deal without raising its $50 million budget, showing confidence that Diesel would develop an overseas following as the next major action star. Getting a seasoned action-genre veteran like Jackson, whose credits range from “Shaft” to “Deep Blue Sea” and “Pulp Fiction,” bolsters the package significantly.

Jackson had been expected to next co-star with Jennifer Lopez in the Columbia drama “Tick Tock,” but that film has been temporarily defused. (Daily Variety, Sept. 21) Jackson recently completed the second installment of the “Star Wars” prequel, which opens in May, as well as the Paramount thriller “Changing Lanes,” with Ben Affleck.

“XXX” was scripted by Rich Wilkes. Neal Moritz is producing, and exec producers are Todd Garner, Diesel and George Zakk. Jackson is repped by ICM and AMG.

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