New Line doubles down

Studio stakes McConaughey's j.k. livin' to first-look pact

New Line is getting in the ring with Matthew McConaughey — twice — negotiating for him to star in the romantic comedy “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” and closing a deal for him to top-line the raucous comedy “The Grackle.”

The studio has also staked McConaughey’s j.k. livin’ Prods. to a first-look deal.

Though the intention is for McConaughey to star in “Ghosts” early next year, it is contingent upon New Line completing a turnaround deal to take the picture from Disney, which developed the project for several years.

The plan coming together is for McConaughey to play a bachelor who goes to his younger brother’s wedding and gets visited by the ghosts of his past girlfriends.

New Line is eyeing a holiday 2007 release. Jon Shestack will produce the script by Scott Moore and John Lucas.

Pic is right in line with his recent draws: “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and “Failure to Launch.”

He will also star in the “The Grackle,” the first film hatched by his j.k. livin’ banner. Pic will be produced by McConaughey and his j.k. livin’ accomplices Gus and Mark Gustawes.

In the script, by Mike Arnold and Chris Poole, McConaughey plays a barroom fighter in New Orleans who hires himself out for $250 to settle disputes for people who can’t afford a lawyer. Harsh language and quick fists are his weapons of choice.

The comedy, which is aiming squarely for the R rating New Line got for “Wedding Crashers,” will go into production next year, after McConaughey completes “Ghosts.”

After j.k. livin’ production president Mark Gustawes uncovered the script and McConaughey used his money to option it, they supervised two years’ worth of rewrites before hitting the auction market.

“We are looking for ‘The Grackle’ to establish j.k. livin’ in the comedy genre,” said Gus Gustawes.

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