Thesp ventures into TV with 'Dresden'

Making his first foray into television, Nicolas Cage has set up and will exec produce two-hour pilot “The Dresden Files” for Sci Fi Channel.

Cabler has greenlit production on the project, based on Jim Butcher’s bestselling novels. Lions Gate Television is onboard to produce in association with Cage’s Saturn Films.

Hans Beimler (“The District”) and Robert Wolfe (“The 4400″) will write and exec produce alongside Cage. Saturn Films’ Norm Golightly and Morgan Gendel also will exec produce.

Story follows Harry Dresden, a wizard who makes his living as a Chicago-based private eye. Using his extraordinary abilities to see the paranormal forces behind crimes, Dresden helps the police solve their more baffling cases.

Sci Fi exec VP of programming Mark Stern said, unlike the cabler’s other original dramas, “Dresden” will pursue a more procedural-style of storytelling.

“It’s very much a detective procedural with a speculative sci-fi spin — a first for us and something we’ve been looking to do for a while,” Stern said. “What the script did so well was to make the fantasy elements integral to (rather than superimposed on) the plot.”

“There’s this ‘Rockford Files’ quality to it that I love,” he added.

“Dresden Files” is one of two pilots under series consideration at Sci Fi. Other is “Painkiller Jane,” a comicbook adaptation about a young woman exposed to a biochemical weapon that gives her self-healing powers. Production on “Jane” wrapped early this year.

Sci Fi last month ordered to series “Eureka,” a quirky drama about a man who stumbles upon a small town of geniuses working for the government (Daily Variety, Sept. 26).

“Dresden” is out to directors and casting. Production will begin in Toronto this fall for a target summer 2006 premiere.

Cage will next produce and star in “The Wicker Man” for writer-director Neil LaBute. He toplines Paramount’s upcoming pic “The Weather Man.”

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