Focus pinches ‘Perros’ pals

Pic has attracted thesps Del Toro, Penn, Watts

Focus Features won a spirited auction for the world rights to “21 Grams,” a $20 million film from the “Amores Perros” team of director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga.

Negotiations are expected to begin shortly with Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn and Naomi Watts to star. Production will begin in December.

The Universal-based film company was among several suitors attracted by the cast and the prospect of working with Gonzales Inarritu on his first English-language feature. The director will produce the film with Ted Hope, the former co-topper at Good Machine, who will make “21 Grams” his first film under Hope’s newly christened This Is That banner.

The drama explores the emotionally and physically charged existences of a woman, an ex-con and the woman’s cheating lover.

Premise is far from the commercial fare studios have been dealing in this season, but the script created immediate buzz — and bids. Focus made a degree of sense, given that Hope’s producing deal is based there, with his ex-Good Machine mates James Schamus and David Linde, who are now running things and wanted to get in business with distinguished directors.

“During the creation of Focus last spring, James and I envisioned it as the opportunity to distribute the work of the most innovative filmmakers, and ’21 Grams’ is such a project,” Linde said.

Focus wouldn’t comment on cast until deals were made, though it is understood that each thesp sparked to the project and the director and will take part if deals can be completed.

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