Will Smith rules Columbia’s ‘Empire’

Michael Mann directing John Logan drama

In a seven-figure pitch deal, Columbia Pictures has acquired “Empire,” a drama that John Logan will write for Michael Mann to direct and Will Smith to topline.

Neither the studio nor the principals would elaborate on the plot, but sources said that Smith will play a contemporary global media mogul.

Smith and James Lassiter’s Overbrook Entertainment will produce with Mann’s Forward Pass.

“Empire” puts the director back in the ring with Smith for the first time since “Ali.” Mann has been working as producer with Smith, Lassiter and Akiva Goldsman on “Hancock” (formerly “Tonight, He Comes”), the Peter Berg-directed Columbia Pictures drama that stars Smith as a disaffected superhero.

Mann, who just produced “The Kingdom” with Scott Stuber for Universal, is in the process of locking down a film he’ll direct early next year.

“Empire” reteams Mann’s with “Gladiator” scribe Logan. They developed “The Aviator” together when Mann planned to direct that picture before handing it to Martin Scorsese to helm and producing the drama.

Smith next stars in the Warner Bros. drama “I Am Legend,” which opens Dec. 14, and is in pre-production on “Seven Pounds,” a co-production of Overbrook and Escape Artists for Columbia that reteams Smith with “Pursuit of Happyness” director Gabriele Muccino.

CAA repped the package.

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