After examing ancient Rome for the Oscar-winning epic “Gladiator,” director Ridley Scott has targeted the religious Crusades of the 11th century for a period epic he hopes to direct in 2003.

Twentieth Century Fox, which last fall signed an overall deal with Ridley and Tony Scott’s Scott Free banner that calls for each brother to direct a film there, has hired screenwriter William Monahan to create a film about the Crusades, when Christians were directed by the Church to forcefully spread their faith across Europe and into Jerusalem. The Crusades, which began in the 11th century, will provide a highly visual canvas for a drama featuring armor-clad warriors who bore red crosses on their breastplates and battled with spears, swords and shields.

Scott and Scott Free prexy Lisa Ellzey chose Massachusetts-based, AMG-repped scribe Monahan because of his script “Tripoli,” the Mark Gordon-produced Fox drama about how U.S. soldier William Eaton joined forces with an exiled king to overthrow the corrupt ruler of Tripoli (now Libya). Both “Tripoli” and the Crusades project are being shepherded by Fox exec Michael Andreen and production prexy Hutch Parker. After Scott told Monahan he wanted to do a film about the Crusades, Monahan came back with a strong storyline, and Fox made the deal. Scott, who directed the hits “Gladiator,” “Hannibal” and “Black Hawk Down” in quick succession, wants to maintain that pace and will likely take one of several projects currently being offered him. He hopes to begin the Crusades pic by the winter.

FROM WRITING “WRONGS” TO WARP & WEFT: Though the $1.1 million against $1.5 million screen sale of John Scott Shepherd’s novel “Henry’s List of Wrongs” rescued the Kansas City advertising writer from bankruptcy and jump-started his screenwriting career, it has taken more than three years to see the results. Shepherd’s novel is being published by Rugged Land in April, and David O. Russell is polishing Shepherd’s own scripted adaptation for New Line, with Stephen Herek eyeing it as a follow-up to directing the Shepherd-scripted “Life or Something Like It” with Angelina Jolie and Ed Burns for New Regency, also out in April. While waiting on “Wrongs,” Shepherd’s continued a prolific pace as a screen scribe and formed his own company, Warp & Weft, with lit manager Ken Atchity. Name of the company is a weaving term meant to describe a thickly woven tapestry — what Shepherd’s looking for in each script. Company has just set Shepherd’s script “Prince of Pools” with producer John Wells and Warner Bros. Shepherd has a three-pic deal with Wells that grew out of “Eulogy for Joseph Way,” Shepherd’s adaptation of his second novel (to be published in 2003), on which he’ll make his directing debut. Shepherd describes “Pools” as “A peculiar love letter to suburban monogamy, where a married couple on the fringes of a normal life with a house and kids gets tempted by a Hollywood producer friend who visits them and convinces both they should want more.” Warp & Weft is also producing the spec script “Stick It,” a Beth Rigazio and Patrick Clifton-penned comedy about a female figure skater forced to become a hockey player to get a scholarship. Shepherd is also writing “Tonic,” a romantic comedy for Revolution Studios that’s being fashioned as a vehicle for Julia Roberts and Adam Sandler revolving around a female con artist claiming to have discovered female Viagra. Shepherd is also working with “Deeds” director Steve Brill and producer Donald De Line to find a home for his script “Favorite Son,” which Sony put in turnaround.

FRANK BOOK GETS RISE OUT OF COL: While Columbia Pictures has been sparing in its book acquisitions, the studio has teamed with John Baldecchi Prods. to option Robert Frank novel “The Rising” in hopes of quickly hiring a writer and fast-tracking a thriller. Deal was brokered by Endeavor and spearheaded by producer Baldecchi and Col exec Andrea Giannetti. Novel revolves around an unusual Detroit-based boy found to have the ability to revive the dead with a single touch.

CASTINGS: John C. McGinley, who veered from his nonstop bigscreen work to topline the sitcom “Scrubs,” has signed to join the ensemble cast of “I.D.,” the Columbia whodunit that stars John Cusack and will be directed by James Mangold. McGinley, who’ll begin work when he wraps the series, will next be seen starring in Revolution/Imagine comedy “The Promise,” which Sony releases in August…Hot off appearing in “John Q,” Shawn Hatosy has signed to join William H. Macy in Content Film’s “The Cooler,” written and being directed by Wayne Kramer. Hatosy stars as Brendan Behan in “Borstal Boy,” the Peter Sheridan-directed drama based on the autbiographical novel and play by the Irish writer. Hatosy is also guest starring in the season premiere of the HBO series “Six Feet Under” and just wrapped the Chris Koch-directed “A Guy Thing” with Julia Stiles and Jason Lee for MGM.

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