McQuarrie wrote the script with Alexander

United Artists has set Tom Cruise to star for director Bryan Singer in the untitled WWII thriller that will begin production in the summer.

Since Cruise and C/W partner Paula Wagner took MGM topper Harry Sloan’s offer last fall to resuscitate the UA label and make four to six films per year, Cruise has taken a starring role in the first two pictures.

Chris McQuarrie wrote the script with Nathan Alexander. Singer and McQuarrie will produce, and Alexander will be co-producer.

UA partners Cruise and Wagner made a deal last week for the film (Daily Variety, March 14), which is the first original project teaming Singer and McQuarrie since “The Usual Suspects.”

Cruise and Wagner quickly agreed to set the film as UA’s second production commitment. The first is “Lions for Lambs,” the Robert Redford-directed drama that stars Redford, Cruise and Meryl Streep. That film, scripted by Matthew Michael Carnahan, will be released Nov. 9 by MGM.

Singer and McQuarrie brought the WWII project to Cruise and Wagner because they felt the material would be a good match for UA. Singer, who is in the early stages of mounting a sequel to “Superman Returns,” was able to fit it in before the Man of Steel is ready to take off again for Warner Bros. and Legendary.

At the time UA made the deal, Cruise sparked to it only as a project for the studio. That changed quickly. The thriller is based on actual events, as German generals hatch a scheme to assassinate Adolph Hitler at the height of WWII. In subsequent meetings, Singer asked Cruise if he wanted to play a central role and he agreed Tuesday.

“After reading the script, Tom and I knew immediately that this was a film we had to make,” Wagner said. “As an added bonus, because of Bryan Singer’s involvement and Tom’s admiration for him as a filmmaker as well as the excellence of the script, the project attracted Tom as an actor. I cannot think of a more perfect combination of creative elements for our second production.”

While the thriller is framed in Europe during WWII, it is a relatively inexpensive film compared with the tentpoles that Singer has directed recently. It also has the ensemble character intrigue present in “The Usual Suspects.”

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