Grazer, Howard to produce pic

Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment are fast-tracking “The Changeling,” with Clint Eastwood looking to direct and Angelina Jolie in talks to star.

Scripted by J. Michael Straczynski, the film will become a co-production of Imagine and Eastwood’s Malpaso. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard will produce with Malpaso’s Rob Lorenz.

Plan is to start production later this year.

Jolie would play a woman whose son is abducted but retrieved; she suspects, however, that the returned child is not her kid. The woman must then confront corruption in the LAPD. Story is based on true events in 1920s Los Angeles.

U and Imagine have been high on the project since acquiring it last summer and placing it on a shortlist of films that Imagine partner Howard intended to direct next. When Howard instead committed to adapt the Peter Morgan play “Frost/Nixon,” he and Grazer began thinking of other filmmakers. Since they expect to follow up “The Da Vinci Code” with a pic based on the Dan Brown novel “Angels & Demons,” it was clear Howard wouldn’t get to “The Changeling” for two years.

Howard, Grazer and Imagine exec Jim Whitaker then called Eastwood and asked him to read the script. Though a fixture at Warner Bros., Eastwood had to enlist outside partners to get his most recent films going: “Million Dollar Baby” and the dual pics “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters From Iwo Jima.”

Jolie, who’ll next be seen as Marianne Pearl in “The Mighty Heart” and then in the Bob Zemeckis-directed “Beowulf,” will have to juggle “The Changeling” with another plum project. She’s booked to star in “Atlas Shrugged,” a Randall Wallace-scripted adaptation of the Ayn Rand classic for Lionsgate.

She’s repped by Media Talent Group’s Geyer Kosinski. Eastwood is managed by Lenny Hirshan.

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