Helmer has new high concept twist for next project

“Seabiscuit” helmer Gary Ross is at the starting gate on his next film. He’s made a deal at Universal to write, direct and produce an untitled drama about the public and private worlds of a high school boy.

Ross, who’ll produce through his U-based Larger Than Life banner, expects to be shooting by fall.

Ross last tackled coming-of-age issues in “Pleasantville,” and just as he was helped visually in that pic by injecting color into a black and white world, he said he’s got a new high concept twist for his next film that he’s keeping close to the vest.

Ross has waited years to tell a story focusing on the misplaced, misfit high school student. Once Ross found his narrative hook for that theme, he pitched it to U chair Stacey Snider and production prexy Mary Parent. They gave the thumbs up, and he’s now writing the script.

“I’ve done a lot of work with teenagers, and since Columbine, I’ve been very interested in those invisible kids who fall through the cracks — the ones who are not the star athlete or the A-student,” Ross said. “I think there is something heroic inside of each of them.”

Teen students were a major focus of Ross’ efforts as president of the Los Angeles Library Commission for several years. He created mentoring programs, established 60 after-school homework centers and formed Teen’Scape, an after-school facility at the Central Library.

Ross has pushed aside other projects at his company to give the school drama his full attention. He expects it to gallop to the starting gate at the same fast pace that “Seabiscuit” did.

“I have been monogamous with every movie I’ve done,” he said. “I began writing ‘Seabiscuit’ in February and we were shooting it in October. I’m hoping this will follow a comparable timetable.”

Ross donated a portion of the DVD proceeds of “Seabiscuit” to Teen’Scape. DVD recently became the biggest drama title ever with sales in excess of $140 million. “Seabiscuit” is nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture and director.

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