Lee, Universal get their 'Man'

After he’s completed his run on Broadway as Brutus in “Julius Caesar,” Denzel Washington will star for director Spike Lee in “Inside Man,” for Universal. The drama will be produced by Imagine’s Brian Grazer. Clive Owen is in talks to co-star.

Washington will play a tough cop who matches wits with a clever bank robber, whose plan to pull off the perfect robbery disintegrates into a tense hostage situation. The script was written by Russell Gewirtz and Menno Meyjes.

Washington confirmed plans to start work after “Caesar” closes in June. Play bowed at the Belasco Theatre Sunday. He was joined at the preem bash by Lee, who directed Washington in “Mo’ Better Blues,” “Malcolm X” and “He Got Game.”

The picture also puts Washington back in business with Grazer and Universal. They were skedded to make “American Gangster” together, until the plug was pulled last fall over an escalating budget. Washington is no longer involved in the film, which is now being redeveloped by “Hotel Rwanda” director Terry George and Grazer, who are trying to tailor Steve Zaillian’s script to be made for around $50 million.

Washington will make “Inside Man” as he continues to develop two directing vehicles “The Great Debaters” — which took root with Harvey Weinstein at Miramax — and Alcon’s “Brothers in Arms.”

Owen, who’s coming off an Oscar nom for “Closer” and is currently onscreen in “Sin City,” just wrapped the Mikael Hafstrom-directed “Derailed,” opposite Jennifer Aniston and Vincent Cassel.

“Inside Man” will be steered by U vice chairman of worldwide production Scott Stuber and exec VP Donna Langley, along with Imagine’s Karen Kehela-Sherwood and Kim Roth. Daniel Rosenberg will exec produce.

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