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Seagal sets up laffer at Searchlight

Tough guy inks Fox pact for Zucker comedy

After snapping many a bad guy’s bones onscreen, Steven Seagal will next target the funny bone.

Seagal has signed a deal with Fox Searchlight and producers David Zucker and Gil Netter to develop a comedy starring vehicle directed by Zucker, who helmed “Scary Movie 3.”

The deal is a result of Seagal’s promising turn in a supporting role in “The Onion Movie,” the Searchlight/Regency comedy Zucker and Netter produced, named for the satirical newspaper.

The pic, opening in November, is a series of sketches in the vein of “Kentucky Fried Movie,” which Zucker wrote with his brother Jerry and Jim Abrahams. Seagal parodies his tough guy image and becomes an interconnecting character in the sketches.

Seagal, recently featured in a Mountain Dew commercial that lampooned his macho martial artist image, is serious about a second career in comedy.

He’s not the first tough guy to try for a laugh track: Arnold Schwarzenegger scored in “Twins” but not “Junior,” and Sylvester Stallone missed with “Stop or My Mom Will Shoot.”

Zucker said Seagal reminded him of Leslie Nielsen, who had a long career in straight drama before his deadpan comic potential was put on display in the Zucker-directed “Airplane!” Zucker then put him in the short-lived TV series “Police Squad!”, which led to the “Naked Gun” film series.

“For a transformation like this, the fewer comedy credentials the better. Steven has zero comedy credibility, which makes him perfect for us,” Zucker said.

He said Seagal has shown the prerequisite willingness to check his vanity at the door.

“Steven gets the joke, he knows he is making fun of himself,” Zucker said.

“For this to work, you’ve got to put yourself on the line and risk diving into an empty swimming pool. Leslie trusted that the jokes would work, and Steven has shown he can do the same thing. He doesn’t have to be funny. He just has to be himself in a funny setting.”

Zucker and Netter are working with Steamroller Prods., the Seagal shingle run by Phil Goldfine, to find the right comic vehicle. Ideas include having him play a bumbling federal agent.

While the comedy develops, Seagal continues to kick out dramas. He still averages two a year and on Sunday he wrapped “Into the Sun,” an actioner which he co-wrote.

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