Singer flies with pic

In the latest chapter of Warner Bros.’ “Superman” saga, Bryan Singer signed a deal Friday to develop and direct the long-gestating new pic in Warner’s star-crossed franchise.

Singer, who helmed “The X-Men” comicbook adaptations for Fox, is expected to work with “X-2″ scribes Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris to draft a tentpole that starts production late this year in Australia.

Jeff Robinov, president of production for Warner Bros Pictures confirmed the deal Sunday and said the studio had always been committed to making “Superman.”

A tug-of-war over Singer’s next project had been going on for weeks, with Fox’s third “X-Men” installment competing with Warner’s remake of “Logan’s Run” to land the helmer.

It now looks likely that Singer will not do the third “X-Men,” even though he has an overall deal with Fox.

Besides the recent exit of helmer McG from the “Superman” project, producers Neal Moritz and Gilbert Adler have apparently disappeared from the scene as well. The fate of Jon Peters also is up in the air.

Rumors late last week had Singer signing a deal that would still allow him to direct “Logan’s Run” — though the resurrection of the Man of Steel is clearly his new priority. Francis Lawrence, helmer of Warner’s “Constantine” comic adaptation, also had been rumored to be in line to direct “Logan’s Run.”

Days after McG left the “Superman” project, Singer became the clear frontrunner to relaunch the franchise.

The studio apparently scrapped a J.J. Abrams script that WB once was high on. In fact, topper Alan Horn was so enamored of that script that he made it a priority and shelved “Batman vs. Superman,” which Wolfgang Petersen was ready to begin.

Super snafus

That’s where the Superman curse kicked in, stalling a production that at one time had helmer Tim Burton and star Nicolas Cage in pay-or-play deals.

Petersen jumped back to “Troy,” and WB decided to pursue separate Batman and Superman films.

Christopher Nolan signed on to resurrect the “Batman” franchise and the studio hired Brett Ratner to helm “Superman,” because first choice McG was busy with his “Charlie’s Angels” sequel.

After Josh Hartnett turned down a deal that could have earned him $100 million for three pictures, Ratner withdrew over budget and casting disputes. His top choice, soap star Matt Bomer, was rejected by the studio.

McG then returned and the picture seemed close to the start gate, even as he brought in “OC” creator Josh Schwartz to do a quick polish on Abrams’ script.

The studio tapped Australia as a reasonably priced shooting location, with a budget said to be around $200 million, and wanted to put the franchise in the hands of Adler and Moritz. But Moritz’s deal was never made and it’s uncertain whether Adler, who did have a deal, will remain involved.

Locale loggerheads

But McG withdrew recently, apparently disagreeing with the studio over location and budget. He wanted to shoot in Canada, which would have cost $25 million more than WB’s preferred Oz locale.

Until Singer prepares his script, it remains unclear who will play the Man of Steel. McG shot test footage with several candidates, including Jason Behr (“Roswell”), Henry Cavill (“The Count of Monte Cristo”) and Jared Padalecki (“New York Minute”).

The WMA-repped Singer also is said to have a new take on the pic. Before his involvement, it was to revolve around Superman’s battle with Lex Luthor and a mysterious figure from Krypton who has come to hunt down the Man of Steel.

“My interest in Superman dates back many, many years,” Singer said. “In fact, it was the Richard Donner classic film that was my day-to-day inspiration in shaping the X-Men universe for the screen. I feel that Superman has been late in his return and it is time for him to fly again.”

If Singer finally gets the Superman franchise off the ground, it would continue WB’s aggressive push to ramp up franchises derived from its DC Comics label. The Pitof-directed “Catwoman” with Halle Berry and Sharon Stone opens Friday and Nolan is shooting “Batman” with Christian Bale as its star.

The studio also has explored making a darkly comic version of “The Green Lantern,” for which the studio reportedly has eyed Jack Black. The studio denied any talks have taken place.

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