Artisan Pictures has bought the Vincent Ngo spec script “Tonight, He Comes,” a drama about a disaffected superhero that has “A Beautiful Mind” scribe Akiva Goldsman aboard to produce under his Weed Road Pictures banner.

The deal is helping to establish Ngo, even though he wrote the script six years ago. Ngo has just been drafted to write “Charlie Chan” as a vehicle for Lucy Liu at Fox and is completing the script “The Book of Owen” for Casey Silver Prods.

“Tonight, He Comes,” a dark drama about the relationship between a troubled 12-year-old and a fallen superhero, was Ngo’s first. It was promptly picked up by director Tony Scott as a potential directing vehicle. While Ngo went on to write several episodes of the Scott-produced Showtime series “The Hunger,” his script languished to the point that some classified it as one of the best unproduced screenplays in town. It resurfaced after Richard Saperstein took the job as president of development and production at Artisan.

“I read it and was astonished no one had made the script,” Saperstein said. “It’s atmospheric and edgy, and seemed to reflect the next generation of superhero movies.”

Saperstein and execs Patrick Gunn, Erik Baiers and Rachel Murray will shepherd the project along with Goldsman, who after winning his Oscar for writing “A Beautiful Mind” has been getting more involved as a producer. The film lines up as a different kind of superhero film from those being developed through Artisan’s joint venture with Marvel Comics.

ACTRESSES TRY TO “SMILE”: Revolution hopes Kirsten Dunst can follow “Spider-Man” by joining Julia Stiles as the lead Wellesley coeds taught by Julia Roberts in the Mike Newell-directed “Mona Lisa’s Smile.” Will Dunst be able to matriculate? She owes an option to Miramax, and that studio wants her for the Wes Craven-directed Dimension pic “Pulse.” Unless, of course, Revolution is open to a co-production; but what studio wants to share a film toplined by Roberts? Come to think of it, Stiles may have option issues for her Miramax turn in “Down to You.”

GRIER SEA DUTY: Pam Grier is negotiating to join the Showtime pilot “Earthlings,” an Ilene Chaiken-created ensemble drama focusing on a group of lesbian friends. Grier’s body will be covered with the names of each lesbian relationship she’s had since watching the gay rights riots at the Gotham bar Stonewall in 1966. In the pilot, the character gets wooed to become a live exhibit at the Whitney. Nude, of course. Grier joins a cast that includes Jennifer Beals, Mia Kirshner, Scott Bairstow and Laurel Holloman. The pilot is being directed by Rose Troche (“Go Fish”) and exec produced by Chaiken, Steve Golin and Larry Kennar.

ARONOFSKY SHIFT: Here’s the hard part of agenting: You put a director like Darren Aronofsky into the Brad Pitt starrer “The Fountain” and into “Batman: Year One,” and he still leaves. The helmer, who established himself with “Requiem for a Dream,” signed with CAA. He’s still waiting to see if Warner Bros. will pony up for his Pitt pic, which has a budget north of $100 million. He had been repped by ICM.

TOPPING “CAT” CASTING: After bagging their cat and one of their kids, Universal and Imagine have moved to the adult roles in the adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic “The Cat in the Hat.” The studio is negotiating with Alec Baldwin and Peri Gilpin to join the production. Baldwin, who’s now repped by CAA and just completed “The Cooler” with William H. Macy and Maria Bello, will play the role of Alex Kulchak, the nosy neighbor who tries to figure out what’s happening when two kids left home alone are visited by the mischievous stovetop-hatted cat played by Mike Myers. Gilpin will play the mother of the kids. Gilpin’s reps at WMA are trying to step up her feature profile as she works on the final two years of her tube contract. She begins taping the 10th season of “Frasier” in August, then will divide her time between the show and the movie.

CAMELOT BUILDS: Writer-director David Von Ancken is building feature momentum through the adage that short is better. He won the Universal/Hypnotic Million Dollar Film Festival with the short “Bullet to the Brain,” a Tobias Wolff short story adaptation, which guaranteed him a shot at making a U movie and got him representation at Original Artists and Catch 23. He just sealed a mid-six-figure deal to adapt and direct the Barry Longyear short story “House of If” with Camelot Pictures, the company run by Gary Gilbert and producing vet Dan Halsted. He’ll make a full-length pic that is described as a futuristic psychological thriller. Von Ancken also just directed one of the final episodes of the HBO drama “Oz” and has completed the original “Cameron’s Line,” which he’s slated to direct at U as part of his contest win. Hypnotic will produce.

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