‘Closer’ encounter for Columbia

Rudin, Fox to produce Nichols pic

Columbia Pictures has set Mike Nichols to direct an adaptation of Patrick Marber’s acclaimed play “Closer,” with a script penned by the playwright.

Jude Law and Natalie Portman, who both just starred in the Anthony Minghella-directed “Cold Mountain,” are near deals to star.

Scott Rudin and Robert Fox, who produced “Closer” in its London and Broadway stage runs, will be involved in a producing capacity.

The drama revolves around two couples. When the guy from the first couple links up with the girl from the other couple, the group dynamic turns ugly. What makes “Closer” hum is the kind of frank exploration of sex prevalent in Nichols’ films like “Carnal Knowledge” and “The Graduate.”

Marber, whose stage credits include “Dealer’s Choice,” has become a busy screenwriter. He recently penned “Asylum” for Paramount Classics, and he is scripting “About the Author” for DreamWorks.

Nichols and Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman John Calley have been sweet on the play for months. Nichols resisted committing while he was shooting an adaptation of Tony Kushner’s play “Angels in America” for HBO with Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson.

CAA repped all the “Closer” participants, with Marber also repped by Britain-based Judy Daish and Portman by the Firm.

Law is about to topline and produce the Kerry Conran-directed sci-fi adventure “The World of Tomorrow,” with Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie.

Portman will next star with Zach Braff in “Large’s Ark” and then make her third “Star Wars” film this summer.

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