Cage vehicle to begin lensing Feb. 17

Paramount Pictures has decided there’s a sunny outlook for “The Weatherman.”

Studio has picked up the Nicolas Cage starrer, to be directed by Gore Verbinski, after Sony dropped the project. Lensing on the drama, produced by financing outfit Escape Artists, is set to start Feb. 17 in Chicago.

Cage is toplining Touchstone’s action-adventure “National Treasure,” currently in production under director Jon Turteltaub. Verbinski recently agreed to direct “Pirates of the Caribbean 2″ for Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Par’s move comes six months after Sony-based Escape Artists won a bidding contest for “The Weatherman,” a spec by Steve Conrad that was his first feature writing gig since penning “Wrestling Ernest Hemingway.” Story centers on a divorced TV weatherman who’s about to leave Chicago for Gotham and tries to reconcile with his estranged wife and kids.

Escape Artists principals Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch and David Alper are producers on “The Weatherman.” The shingle is partnering with Summit Entertainment on the project.

Pic is the second Escape Artists project set up at Par this month after the studio agreed to pick up “Need,” a thriller toplined by Diane Lane and helmed by Marcus Nispel (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”).

Producers have been grumbling recently that the development budget at Sony has been tapped for the year, but the studio denies that (Daily Variety, Nov. 17).

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