Frank Marshall will direct the life story of the legendary gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. Universal has made a deal for “Django,” a co-production between Kennedy/Marshall and the Manheim Co.

Marshall expects to shoot in spring 2003; script is being written by Janus Cercone (“Leap of Faith”).

Reinhardt’s music changed the Marshall family destiny after the producer‘s father heard his music on the family farm in El Dorado, Kan., during the Depression.

“My dad learned to play the guitar by listening to Django on the radio during the 1930s,” Marshall said. “(My dad) became a child prodigy, singing and playing on the radio. The whole family left the farm and moved to Hollywood when he was 14. Django was my dad’s idol and, the way I look at it, he’s got a lot to do with me being here.” Jack Marshall grew up to play in the MGM orchestra during the studio’s golden era of musicals, and later composed the theme for the TV series “The Munsters” and arranged Peggy Lee’s version of “Fever.”

Reinhardt had plenty of adventures himself, said scribe Cercone, who with producer Michael Manheim spent two years sleuthing the rights in Europe. It was no easy task because the heirs were gypsies like Reinhardt. They finally located Reinhardt’s son and persuaded him to make a deal just two days before he died.

“You talk to any guitar god today from Eric Clapton on down and they will tell you that Django was their most important influence, but people don’t know much about him outside of his music,” said Cercone, a former record exec. “He was this handsome gypsy whose music was just reaching the mainstream when a fire started in the gypsy caravan and he rushed in to save his wife (getting badly burned in the process). The doctors wanted to amputate his left hand and right leg, but the gypsies (kidnapped) him and nursed him back to health. He played anyway, until he was captured during WWII by the Nazis, who had outlawed jazz in Europe and wanted to completely exterminate gypsies. His music wound up saving his life.” He later became the toast of the Paris jazz set and realized his dream to play with Ellington at Carnegie Hall.

While the Gersh/TEG-repped Cercone writes the script, Marshall will complete, with partner Kathleen Kennedy, “The Bourne Identity” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs.” He spent the weekend at the Kentucky Derby prepping the Gary Ross-directed “Seabiscuit” and will star soon on the next Indiana Jones film, as soon as Paramount reaches a deal with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford to move forward on a fourth installment.

KOEPP-ING TRACK OF FRANCHISES: The record opening weekend of “Spider-Man” is further proof of David Koepp’s talent for writing successful film franchises. Before the webslinger, other Koepp-scripted blockbusters were “Jurassic Park” ($920 million worldwide gross) “Lost World” ($615 million worldwide) and “Mission: Impossible” ($454 million worldwide). And the Koepp-scripted “Panic Room” is on course to do $100 million domestically. Endeavor recently brokered a deal for Koepp to adapt Stephen King’s “Two Past Midnight: Secret Window, Secret Garden” to direct himself, and he’s got a pilot creation, “Hack,” in contention for CBS’ fall sked.

HBO IN FAMILIAR TERRITORY: HBO has greenlit an adaptation of William Trevor’s novel “My House in Umbria,” and has reteamed “The Gathering Storm” duo of director Richard Loncraine and scribe Hugh Whitemore. Maggie Smith is set to star as a former madam-turned bed and breakfast owner in Umbria, who is riding on a train that explodes and invites the survivors to convalesce at her B&B. Ann Wingate is producing, and Frank Doelger is exec producer. Hotchkiss & Associates, repping Sterling Lord and London-based lit agency PFD, is shopping Trevor’s new novel, “The Story of Lucy Gault.”

PARISOT’S PAIRING: After presiding over a reading of “Locked & Upright,” “Galaxy Quest” director Dean Parisot appears poised for liftoff. Pic’s a time travel comedy about two flighty flight attendants from the swinging ’70s who head into the Bermuda triangle aboard a passenger flight and come out in the belly of a German bomber staging a raid over London. The table reading was staged by producer Mark Johnson and Patrick Wachsberger, whose Summit is financing the comedy, and participants were “The Sweetest Thing” duo of Christina Applegate and Selma Blair, along with Tim Curry and Stuart Townsend. In the script by Barry McEvoy and David Sussman, the promiscuous stewardesses try to acclimate to their surroundings, a task made harder given they can’t remember who won that damned war. No guarantee that cast will take part, but the pic’s poised to start shooting in winter.

DW REVS CAR PIC: With all the fuss over “The Fast and the Furious,” DreamWorks is getting closer to the starting line on its own car racing pic, “Hammer Down.” Andrew Marlowe (“Air Force One”) has been brought into the pits to rewrite Rick Waugh and Tag Mendillo’s script about a disgraced NASCAR driver who becomes a wheel man in a heist in the belief it will get him back on the track. Barry Josephson and Michael Rotenberg are producing.

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