Redford, Streep board pic

Tom Cruise is already making waves at UA.

Cruise next will star in “Lions for Lambs,” a Robert Redford-directed drama that will co-star Redford and Meryl Streep.

Pic will be his first outing for United Artists since he and C/W partner Paula Wagner agreed to revive the shingle for Harry Sloan’s MGM.

“Lambs” is a Matthew Carnahan-scripted drama that consists of three interconnected storylines: Cruise as a congressman who interacts with a journalist (Streep); Redford as an idealistic professor who attempts to inspire a privileged student in his class; and a third storyline about a pair of American soldiers wounded in enemy territory, one of whom is Redford’s former student.

United Artists is financing the film. Production will begin early next year.

Even before Cruise and Wagner made their UA alliance, “Lions for Lambs” was the favorite among three pics Cruise circled as a star vehicle (Daily Variety, Oct. 24). He also has been eyeing a Chuck Leavitt-scripted adaptation of Dave King’s novel “The Ha-Ha” at Warner Bros. and the Spike Lee-directed “Selling Time” at Fox.

Given the UA development, “Lions for Lambs” is even more attractive, since it isn’t tethered to a studio and can be distributed through MGM. If deals close and production begins early next year as expected, the studio could have its first C/W-generated film in time for fall 2007.

All the creative talent on the film so far is repped by CAA, which helped arrange Cruise’s alliance with UA and a separate overhead pact with Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. It’s no secret that the agency has made it a priority to find a strong film for Cruise, who wants to prove his UA deal was more than a cosmetic announcement designed to repair his public image.

Cruise became a free agent when Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone declared C/W’s Paramount tenure over and cited his “inappropriate behavior” and high salary as the reason “Mission: Impossible III” didn’t perform beyond its $395 million worldwide gross.

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