Helmer is 'Fantastic' again in 2007

Director Tim Story has signed on to return for “Fantastic Four 2,” which 20th Century Fox has slotted for release July 4, 2007.

Story’s seven-figure deal triples his quote from the first film, which grossed $320 million worldwide. Mark Frost has returned to write the sequel for Fox and Marvel Enterprises.

Story also is set to direct pilots for 20th Century Fox Television and FBC. He’ll helm “The 12th Man,” a half-hour comedy being scripted by Dan Fogelman, based on Paul Shirley, a pro basketball player who started a blog to chronicle his experiences as the glamour-less last man on the team’s bench.

He’ll also direct “Primary,” an hour drama about a couple who are hostage negotiators. Craig Silverstein is writing the script.

Story said his decision to return for a second “Fantastic Four” was a no-brainer. Bernd Eichinger, Avi Arad and Ralph Winter are producing, and Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis will return as the mutating quartet.

“We tried to something different than the brooding, dark setting you usually get in superhero films,” Story said. “The key to that movie was how to play with a comedic tone and the action and have it feel respectable to the genre and the franchise and still be fun.

“By the end, we’d found the right note and then you want to put the band back together. The universe of villains is vast, and now that everyone’s been introduced, you can just get right to it. That’s why so many superhero sequels improve on the original.”

Story, whose introduction to TV came several years ago with “The Warrens,” said he sparked to both pilot scripts because of their comic elements and because of his desire to continue helming modest-budget laffers like “Barbershop.” He’ll be an exec producer on both pilots.

“(The benchwarmer’s) view of his place in this superstar world is hilarious and gives us the chance to present something that is like Larry David taking you through the NBA,” Story said.

Story said yes to “Primary” because it harkened back to series he loved growing up.

“The idea is that in life, everything’s a negotiation, and the portrayal of two people who are on top of their game has worked in everything from ‘Moonlighting’ to ‘Remington Steele’ and ‘Hart to Hart,’ and the hostage-negotiation premise lends itself to incredible drama. I was hooked as soon as I heard the idea.”

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