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WB finds helmer for ‘Batman vs. Superman’

Petersen to referee superhero tentpole

Wolfgang Petersen will direct “Batman vs. Superman” for Warner Bros. Pictures, with the tentpole pic targeted for a 2004 release.

In a script penned by Andrew Kevin Walker (“Seven”), the two superheroes are allies who come to mighty blows over what Petersen describes as differing philosophies.

“It is a clash of the titans,” Petersen told Daily Variety. “They play off of each other so perfectly. (Superman) is clear, bright, all that is noble and good, and Batman represents the dark, obsessive and vengeful side. They are two sides of the same coin and that is material for great drama.”

Petersen will produce the pic with Diana Rathbun. Warners’ prexy of worldwide production, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, oversees the project with senior VP Bob Brassel.

“We are very pleased that Wolfgang Petersen is bringing his considerable talents to this newest episode of two of our most important franchises,” di Bonaventura said. “In his hands, ‘Batman vs. Superman’ will carry forward the Warner Bros. superhero tradition; we look forward to starting this project as soon as possible.”

Whatever battle the two superheroes face, it probably won’t be as brutal as the one Warners has tackled in trying to revive its “Superman” franchise.

In April 1998, after spending millions on scripts and director attachments, di Bonaventura pulled the plug on “Superman Lives” during pre-production. Despite a prodigious investment of time and money, the project suffered from a bloated budget and less-than-airtight script.

However, Petersen emphasized that his film is not a continuation of the previous series, last brought to the bigscreen in 1987’s “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.”

Similarly, development continues on a standalone “Superman” with “Charlie’s Angels” helmer McG, writer J.J. Abrams and producer Jon Peters, as well as Darren Aronofsky and Frank Stack’s “Batman: Year One.”

Neither of Petersen’s superheroes have been cast. However, just as Sam Raimi made the unlikely choice of Tobey Maguire for his hit “Spider-Man,” Petersen said he is seeking actors who can offer complex emotions as well as six-pack abs.

“Everything after Sept. 11 is different,” he said. “You want to change the image of these superheroes.”

In particular, Petersen pointed to “The Bourne Identity” star Matt Damon as “an interesting action man and a hell of an actor.”

The filmmaker cited early 2003 as a realistic start date, with plans for five or six months of shooting.

Petersen, whose last project was Warners’ “The Perfect Storm,” is attached to a number of projects at the studio. These include the Orson Scott Card sci-fi series “Ender’s Game” and “Ender’s Shadow” as well as the epic “The Trojan War,” and said his interest in those projects continues.

“It was just too exciting to me not to do ‘Batman vs. Superman’ now,” he said. “It’s good to have a handful of projects cooking in your drawer. Let’s see what happens after this.”

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