Studio's soccer laffer to star Ferrell

Universal Pictures has netted a comic vehicle that will put Will Ferrell into the competitive world of kids soccer.

Starting production in late January, the untitled pic will mark the feature directorial debut of Marco Schnabel, who has been second unit director on such Jay Roach-directed films as the Austin Powers trilogy and “Meet the Parents.”

The deal came together with the suddenness of a free kick by David Beckham. Mosaic-based producer Jimmy Miller came in with a script by the writing team of Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick and a willingness by Ferrell to make the film after he completes toplining the untitled Woody Allen film and then co-starring with Ed Harris in the Stratus-financed drama “Winter Passing.” He’ll do the soccer pic before starring opposite Nicole Kidman in the Columbia comedy “Bewitched.”

Ferrell will play a father who reluctantly becomes the coach of his 10-year-old’s soccer team, then finds himself in a rivalry with his own father. Ferrell’s deal was already set by Mosaic and UTA, and a star is expected to be set shortly to play his father, who’s considered the Vince Lombardi of the pint-sized soccer circuit. U execs Mary Parent and Holly Bario are supervising the pic. The writers’ credits include “The Santa Clause,” “Space Jam” and “Daddy Boot Camp,” a sequel to “Daddy Day Care.”

It is the latest deal for Ferrell, who is fast emerging as a carrier of screen comedies. The “Saturday Night Live” transplant will next be seen starring in New Line’s “Elf,” and just made an attachment to the Bob Cooper-produced New Line pitch “The Salesman.” He’s also completed toplining the DreamWorks comedy “Anchor Man: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” which he co-wrote. He’s expected to topline “A Confederacy of Dunces” if that film completes its financing.

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