Studio eyes spring 2006 start date for Williams cousins pic

Warner Bros. has rekindled “Young Men and Fire” by setting Tod C. Williams to direct the film. His cousin, Tod H. Williams, is adapting the Norman Maclean book.

WB is eyeing a spring 2006 start date in Montana. Paula Weinstein and Len Amato will produce for Spring Creek.

Studio tried for more than a decade to make a movie out of a book written by the “A River Runs Through It” author just before he died. The book is about a 1949 Montana forest fire that, stoked by a rare combination of winds and explosions, produced flames the equivalent of 40 stories tall that moved 50 mph. Battling it was a group of smoke jumpers who parachuted into the conflagration. A total of 13 men died in the blaze.

Weinstein and WB exec Kevin McCormick gave the book to Williams, who managed to take one part of the sprawling John Irving novel “A Widow for One Year” and turn it into the Jeff Bridges/Kim Basinger pic “The Door in the Floor.”

The Maclean book was sitting around the house and got picked up by the director’s like-named cousin, with whom Williams was working on several other scripts. Williams the writer will make his directing debut this fall on indie “Trainwreck,” which he also wrote. The Williams duo sparked to Maclean’s themes of mortality and came up with a take that got the studio and producers excited.

“There were a pile of previous scripts, but they all seemed to deal with guilt and blame about the event, who was responsible,” said the director. “We started from scratch, looking at them as young men who’d missed the war, and some of whom were conscientious objectors, a hard stance to justify in WWII. We saw them as real action heroes in a war movie with no enemy except the elements.”

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