Helmer, studio talk third pic

Director Bryan Singer has inked an overall deal with 20th Century Fox to develop projects he’ll direct and produce. Singer has separately begun negotiations to return for a third installment of the “X-Men” franchise.

Fox production president Hutch Parker said the effort to mount another film is in its early stages, but that he would have been eager to bring Singer into the Fox fold even if the studio wasn’t thinking about another film.

“We are always wary of sequels because so often they are an invitation to mediocrity, because not enough attention is paid to the skills that allowed the first film to succeed,” Parker said. “We had such a fantastic experience with Bryan on ‘X2′ — he was a great partner who navigated the process, which included the magnitude of the budget, the number of visual effects, and our desire to build on the first film and make a better and more satisfying movie. The deal is an outgrowth of the strong relationship we built on those two films.”

The two-year deal is the first studio pact for Singer, who named his production company Bad Hat Harry, a line from his favorite movie “Jaws.” Singer will have an office on the lot and will bring with him development director Alex Garcia and add to his existing staff as he accumulates projects.

“I’ve been stockpiling a number of different projects in movies, TV and videogames, and it’s great to have a base of operation and a place to put writers to work,” Singer said.

Released last May, “X2″ grossed more than $400 million worldwide, including $215 million domestically. The original 2000 film grossed $295 million worldwide, including $157 million domestically. The “X2″ DVD also did $107 million in just its first five days.

The WMA-repped Singer joins the roster of directors with overall pacts at Fox: Peter and Bobby Farrelly, James Cameron, Ridley and Tony Scott and Mel Gibson.

Mounting a second “X-Men” sequel will be a more pricey undertaking than the last effort. The cast members made deals for the original film and an option for one sequel. The studio will have to broker new deals for returning cast members.

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