Greg Mottola, Martin Campbell set new projects

Despite shaky economic conditions and a possible SAG strike, the majors are ramping up for a busy 2009 in pic production. And there’s no shortage of helmers ready to sign onto projects following this year’s long lull in feature film activity.

Among the directors signing onto projects that have come to light this week:

  • “Superbad” helmer Greg Mottola will direct the extraterrestrial comedy “Paul” for Working Title and Universal Pictures. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the duo behind “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” will star.

  • Martin Campbell will helm “Nagasaki Deadline,” an action thriller that Alcon Entertainment is financing and co-producing with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and 8:38 Prods.

  • New Line Cinema has tapped documentarian Nanette Burstein (“American Teen”) to direct the romantic comedy “Going the Distance,” with Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot producing via their Offspring Entertainment shingle.

Mottola, who hasn’t worked since wrapping the upcoming comedy “Adventureland” last fall despite the heat generated from “Superbad,” will begin lensing “Paul” in mid-April in New Mexico.

“Greg is a big fan of Nick and Simon’s. He loved the concept,” said Working Title’s Eric Fellner, who is producing with Tim Bevan and Nira Park.

Story revolves around two British slackers who, after visiting Comic-Con, go on a road trip to Area 51, where they encounter a small alien named Paul, who enlists them to help him find his way home. Pegg and Frost penned the screenplay for the pic, which will shoot in March.

Edgar Wright, who directed “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead,” is exec producing.

Feature production in Hollywood has slowed to a trickle in recent months amid uncertainty over a potential SAG strike. But studios seem to be hedging against a strike and are putting some 40 films into production in the spring and summer (Daily Variety, Oct. 8).

Campbell (“Casino Royale”) will return to work on “Nagasaki” after helming the Mel Gibson starrer “Edge of Darkness.” David and Peter Griffiths (“The Hunted,” “Collateral Damage”), who penned the original screenplay, will exec produce. William Broyles Jr. (“Cast Away”) is currently working on a rewrite of the story, centered on an emotionally damaged FBI agent who must decipher historic events in a desperate race to avert a terrorist plot.

Alcon toppers Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson will produce with 8:38′s Kira Davis (“Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”) and Lightstorm’s Cameron, Rae Sanchini and Jon Landau.

“Nagasaki” has been picked up out of turnaround from Fox, where it was developed prior to 9/11. Alcon’s fast-tracking the project with a goal of putting it into production next year.

Meanwhile, New Line made the bold decision to tap a documentarian for its romantic comedy “Distance,” which it bought in July in a preemptive purchase from tyro writer Geoff LaTulippe, who has been a script reader at New Line for four years. Story centers on a couple trying to maintain a long-distance relationship while one lives in Chicago and the other in Los Angeles. Burstein, who most recently directed Sundance hit “American Teen,” also helmed “The Kid Stays in the Picture” and “On the Ropes,” for which she received an Oscar nom.

“Distance,” which will likely go into production early next year, reteams Shankman and Gibgot with New Line after they produced the upcoming “17 Again.” Shankman also directed and exec produced New Line’s “Hairspray” with Gibgot.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more