‘Sun’ rising for Pandora

NEW YORK — Pandora Films is negotiating to turn Augusta Trobaugh’s novel “Sophie and the Rising Sun” into a feature that will be developed by scribe Robert Harling as a vehicle for Chow Yun-Fat.

Pic becomes one of several vehicles being tailored to give Chow the profile in Hollywood that he has long enjoyed in Hong Kong.

To be published this week, “Sophie” is the story of a small-town Georgian who falls in love with a Japanese-American gardener in 1941. The relationship takes a turn after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when Sophie and the gardener’s landlady hide him.

Pic will be produced by Wendy Finerman, and scripted by Harling, whose credits range from “Steel Magnolias” to “First Wives Club” and most recently “The Ump,” the MGM film that Arnold Schwarzenegger is eyeing as a star vehicle in a co-production between Beacon and Hyde Park.

The book will be shepherded by Gaylord Films topper Hunt Lowry and senior veep Stacy Cohen.

After taking a year to fashion the right follow-up vehicles to the Ang Lee-directed “Dragon,” Chow will tackle several genres in films next year. His next film will either be “Bulletproof Monk,” the graphic novel adaptation by Cy Voris and Ethan Reiff for MGM that will be directed by video and commercials veteran Paul Hunter, or “Waiting,” the China-set epic love story written and directed by Peter Chan, which Andre Morgan is producing.

Also coming together for a mid-2002 start is his reteam with Woo, who directed Chow in “The Killer,” “Hard Boiled” and several other action classics. The pair is expected to next collaborate in a historical drama scripted by “Face/Off” scribes Mike Werb and Michael Colleary. The film, which has the working title “Men of Iron,” will pair Chow with an American actor in the story of a Chinese man and an Irish man as they work laying track for the transcontinental railroad in the late 1800s. The project has been developed by Bill Mechanic’s Pandemonium label.

DOUBLE DEUTCH: Crusader Entertainment has made a deal with director Howard Deutch to turn the Laurence Shames comic novel “Florida Straits” into a feature. Deutch, who last directed the Keanu Reeves comedy “The Replacements” and recently signed to direct the MGM road comedy “The Tree,” will work with on a “Florida Straits” polish with Shames, who adapted his own novel for Crusader, which has a first look deal at Paramount. The novel’s long been considered strong movie material in the vein of “Get Shorty.” It concerns a young son of a mob boss, who, because he’s not pure Italian blood, will never be a made guy. He leaves his father and brother and sets out for Key West, where he intends to start his own mob. Trouble is, the area’s run by a Colombian cartel and when the mobster concocts a jewel heist, he finds that his rivals have ordered him to be rubbed out. At the same time, Deutch’s WMA agents are negotiating for him to direct the pilot episode of an untitled HBO series about the music industry. The series, which will be produced by Erwin Stoff of 3 Arts, would mark the second HBO series Deutch has gotten involved with, after he did two episodes of “Tales from the Crypt.”

BAD BOYS COLLARS COUPLE:With “Men in Black 2” nearing a wrap for a summer 2002 release, Columbia Pictures and producer Jerry Bruckheimer are forging ahead with plans that could get “MIB2” star Will Smith back into sequel mode by the middle of next year. Columbia has tapped the husband/wife script team of Cormac and Marianne Wibberley to pull together a script, with the hope of reassembling the trio of director Michael Bay and stars Smith and Martin Lawrence, the latter of whom is expected to do the “Blue Streak” sequel at Columbia. The Wibberleys are becoming major players in the action-comedy world, even though they began writing for the kids market, without much success. That changed when they wrote “The Sixth Day” as a spec script, and watched it turn into an Arnold Schwarzenegger drama at Phoenix Pictures. The Wibberleys were then brought aboard for a page-one rewrite on “I Spy,” and kept writing on the film after Betty Thomas began directing Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson in that action comedy. Aside from “Bad Boys,” the scribes have a blind script commitment with Columbia Pictures, an obligation they hope to satisfy when they complete “Bad Boys,” if they’re not brought aboard for another pricey rewrite. The scribes are repped by UTA and Bondesen and Graup.

FROM “ATTRACTION” TO “CRIME”:Up-and-coming star Kip Pardue will star in “American Crime,” the indie drama coming together with director Dan Mintz and producer-writer Jeff Ritchie’s Fingerprint Films. Pardue’s in talks to team with Rachael Leigh Cook in a drama that casts him as a member of a small-town news crew covering a series of local deaths. The young reporter becomes a prime suspect in the investigation. Pardue is currently in production on the Roger Avary-directed adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel “The Rules of Attraction,” which stars James Van Der Beek and Jessica Biel. Pardue is repped by WMA and Untitled Ent.

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