Poker pic gets new deal

Insomnia wagers 'Grand' on Penn

“X-Men 3” scribe Zak Penn has reshuffled the deck on his improvisational poker comedy “The Grand.”

Insomnia Media Group has anted up financing and will produce the movie with Eleven Eleven Films. The project previously was set up at financing and production house Insomnia Entertainment — which is unrelated to Insomnia Media Group.

Ensemble cast includes Woody Harrelson, Ray Liotta, Ray Romano, Jason Alexander, Cheryl Hines and German helmer Werner Herzog.

Penn will direct the pic from an outline he penned, but the dialogue will be improvised when lensing begins next month at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Storyline revolves around an international poker tourney. Thesps will play real games, culminating in a championship round.

“A lot of actors were intrigued by this, because they are naturally competitive. And the fact that poker has become this crazy phenomenon isn’t unhelpful to us,” said Penn, adding that the entire cast has learned the game in preparation of shooting.

Producers are IMG’s Jeff Bowler and Bret Saxon and Eleven Eleven’s Bobby Schwartz and Ross M. Dinerstein. Matt Bierman and Ari Palitz, also with IMG, are exec producing.

Endeavor Independent brokered the deal during a series of meetings at Cannes. Pact was finalized with as the parties flew back to L.A.

Penn, who had played poker for years, got the idea for “Grand” from Bierman, a longtime poker mate.

Penn said “Grand” is a natural followup to his directing debut, “Incident at Loch Ness,” also an improvisational comedy.

Herzog starred in that pic as well. He has remained with the poker project, although several other thesps originally attached to star have dropped off, including Ben Affleck, David Schwimmer and William H. Macy.

“Grand” is among a handful of poker-based projects in the pipeline, including Warner Bros. Pictures’ upcoming “Lucky You,” directed by Curtis Hanson and starring Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore and Robert Duvall.

Eleven Eleven also is financing and exec producing Van Diesel starrer “Black Water Transit.”

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