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Next ‘X-Men’ firms up

Mutant movie meets its maker

Some new blood is joining some familiar faces for “X-Men 3.”

20th Century Fox and Marvel Entertainment have tapped Brit filmmaker Matthew Vaughn (“Layer Cake”) to helm the second sequel to the beefy franchise. Filming’s skedded to start in early summer with many of the cast from the first two films expected to reprise their roles.

Hugh Jackman is set for Wolverine, and Fox is in negotiations with Halle Berry, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart to return.

Alex Young is overseeing “X-Men 3” for Fox, which is aiming for a Memorial Day May 26, 2006, release date.

A Brit gangster drama, “Layer Cake” grossed $8.3 million in the U.K. “Cake” will be released in the U.S. by Sony Classics later this spring.

His work on the pic, starring Micahel Gambon and Sienna Miller, made Vaughn a serious contender to direct a “Harry Potter” and the next James Bond installment.

Vaughn also produced 1998’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and 2000’s “Snatch,” both helmed by Guy Ritchie.

Bryan Singer directed the first two “X-Men” pics but ended negotiations for “X-Men 3” in July and quickly signed to helm the new “Superman” movie for Warner Bros.

The first “X-Men” grossed $157 million domestically and $139 million overseas after its July 2000 release; “X2: X-Men United” grossed $215 million domestically and $191 million foreign following its May 2003 opening.

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