‘Hannibal’ on the march with Diesel

Revolution Studios has set Vin Diesel to star as Hannibal, the third century B.C. Carthaginian general who rode an elephant across the Alps to attack Rome.

Revolution has acquired screen rights to the Ross Leckie novel “Hannibal” for a film that Diesel and his One Race Prods. partner George Zakk will produce.

While mounting an elephant seems easy in comparison to an ambitious period pic — Fox has a couple year head start on a David Klass-penned Hannibal project that has caught the eye of Denzel Washington — Revolution execs vow to hire an A-list scribe quickly and be in production by next year. They expect Diesel to make the film before its “XXX” sequel.

In taking on Hannibal, Diesel joins the growing ranks of stars hoping history can do for them what it did for Mel Gibson with “Braveheart” and Russell Crowe with “Gladiator.” Thesps going the historical route range from Tom Cruise (the Ed Zwick-directed “The Last Samurai”) to the Rock (the Greg Poirier-scripted biopic of Hawaiian warrior King Kamehameha). And after Heath Ledger stepped aside, a swarm of young thesps including “Minority Report” star Colin Farrell are circling Oliver Stone’s Alexander the Great epic.

In Hannibal, Revolution and Diesel have seized upon a noteworthy historical figure who was as crafty a battlefield tactician as “Braveheart” protagonist William Wallace. After swearing to his warrior father an oath of hatred for the Romans, Hannibal became by his mid-20s a Carthage general commanding an army 100,000 strong. He unleashed those forces on Rome and its allies, conquering such venues as Spain before engineering a surprise attack against Rome by trekking his armies over the Alps. Shepherded by Revolution partner Todd Garner, the pic will be scripted while Diesel stars in “Riddick,” the David Twohy-directed “Pitch Black” sequel. Endeavor and the Firm repped Diesel, while WMA brokered the book deal.

PRICE RIGHT FOR CBS? While the pilots have long been shot and the fall season set, CBS has a surprise entry with a formidable pedigree. The script is “R.I.P.S.,” a cop drama that marks the first series creation foray by Richard Price, the author of such books as “The Wanderers” and “Clockers,” and scripter of the films “Ransom,” “Sea of Love” and “The Color of Money.” It is being exec produced by Price and Mark Johnson of “The Guardian.” The setting is Dempsey, N.J., the fictitious locale of Price’s novels. Lazy cops and bureaucracy has prompted the formation of Rapid Interception Patrol, an elite squad that solves crime quickly and is loathed by peers left to do the paperwork. “It’s a proactive squad, they get there before the bad guys and wait for crimes to occur,” said Price. “They are the antidote to a low motivation police force, these Dirty Dozen-type action junkies who love the action. I’ve never written a TV pilot before and I’m learning the rules. It’s earn while you learn for me.” CBS brass have just got the script and are figuring out how to proceed. It is the latest example of the veteran feature producer Johnson tapping screen talent for TV, a strategy that has worked well. Johnson discovered John Lee Hancock on “L.A. Doctors” and “Falcone,” which led Hancock to direct the Johnson-produced Disney film “The Rookie.” Then he teamed with feature scribe David Hollander on “The Guardian.” Price has been finishing “Alms,” the Knopf novel that is an urban ghost story dealing with psychics who work with police. Price just made a $2 million film deal with Scott Rudin and Paramount for the book and a script.

WILL A ROSE BLOOM AT ICM? Director Bernard Rose has signed with ICM, where the filmmaker hopes to get behind the camera, perhaps with a horror project he’s writing that harkens back to his horror skills honed on “Candyman,” the fright franchise he hatched. Nothing in his imagination could approach the fright factor of his ordeal to direct his latest pic “ivansxtc,” a drama about the rise and fall of a Hollywood superagent many figure was patterned after former CAA tenpercenter Jay Moloney. Rose wrote the pic with wife Lisa Enos, who also signed with ICM, and the director said they went broke once his agents at CAA dumped the pic. “There has obviously been a tremendous problem getting the film to the public, and I think its content pissed off all the buyers for one reason or other,” said Rose. “When CAA dropped the film, it seemed to have the kiss of death on it and since they stopped trying to sell it in March 2000, I’ve been carrying it around to festivals. I’ve been agentless since it became clear to us they weren’t going to sell the film and we were going to be saddled with the debt.” Though Rose’s resume covers the gamut, from the Frankie Goes to Hollywood video “Relax” to “Immortal Beloved” and “Anna Karenina,” “ivansxtc” wouldn’t have been an easy sell even if CAA hawked it. A small distribber, Artistic License, has put it in small U.S. release, with European territories about to follow suit. Rose has paid a high price for his devotion. “At one point, we were literally homeless,” he said. “We were in Chicago, our car was repossessed in the middle of a very harsh winter. Before we could sell the film, we had to settle some outstanding claims involving the music and we had to sell almost every belonging we owned in Chicago. … It’s an honest movie that reflects the world I lived in at that point. It might have struck a nerve, but only because it told the truth. I never felt what we were doing was telling an anti-Hollywood movie.” He hopes to get paid for the next job, however.

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