‘Bombshell’ on U’s radar

'Gilbert Grape' duo to reteam

Lasse Hallstrom has come onboard to direct the A-bomb thriller, “Bombshell,” for Universal Pictures as a potential starring vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio.

“Bombshell,” which could reteam Hallstrom and DiCaprio for the first time since 1993’s “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” will compete with several pics on Hallstrom and DiCaprio’s schedules.

DiCaprio, repped by the Firm, just signed on to another Cold War pic at U, “The Good Shepherd,” which Robert De Niro is hoping to direct in fall 2003.

DiCaprio’s next pic will be “The Aviator,” a Howard Hughes biopic helmed by Martin Scorsese. He has also committed to play Alexander the Great in a Baz Luhrmann historical epic at U.

Hallstrom is still in development on “Unfinished Life,” an Alan Ladd Jr. produced pic for Miramax scripted by Virginia and Mark Spragg, which is expected to be his next pic.

Hallstrom has also committed to “Casanova” the Touchstone Pictures period tale of the famed Lothario who learns the meaning of love when he finds a woman immune to his charms. Pic, being produced by Mark Gordon and Holleran, was originally scripted by Kimberly Simi with a rewrite by Michael Cristofer. Hallstrom, repped by UTA, is expected to go out to cast for a potential production start next year.

DiCaprio will produce “Bombshell” through his shingle, Appian Way. Also producing are Hallstrom’s producing partner, Leslie Holleran, former Industry manager Julia Chasman and Mary Saltman.

Industry Entertainment’s Nick Weschler and DiCaprio’s father, George DiCaprio, will exec produce.

Pic is an adaptation of “Bombshell: The Secret Story of America’s Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy,” by former Moscow-based journalists Joseph Albright and Marcia Kunstel

“The Mighty” scribe Charles Leavitt first adapted the thriller, which was published by Times Books in 1997. James Vanderbilt, one of the writers of the untitled Peter Berg pic that Misher Films and Strike Entertainment are producing for U, has since done a rewrite.

The book is a sympathetic portrait of Theodore Hall, a physics prodigy recruited for the Manhattan Project while still a teenager. Although the youngest participant in the development of the atomic bomb, Hall feared an American monopoly on nuclear secrets and passed classified data to the Soviet Union. He was never prosecuted, though historians claim he may have started the Cold War.

U prexy of production Mary Parent is developing the project with VP Tim O’Hair.

Hallstrom most recently directed “The Shipping News” for Miramax. He was nominated for an Oscar as best director for “The Cider House Rules,” for Miramax Films.

Next month, DiCaprio will appear in “Gangs of New York” for helmer Martin Scorsese and Miramax Films and in Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me if You Can,” also starring Tom Hanks for DreamWorks.

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