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Jolie replaces Cruise in ‘Salt’

Actress to star in Philip Noyce's spy thriller

“Edwin A. Salt” is about to undergo a gender change.

Once expected to star Tom Cruise, the Columbia Pictures espionage thriller will be redrafted by screenwriter Kurt Wimmer as a star vehicle for Angelina Jolie. Philip Noyce remains attached as director and Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Sunil Perkash are producing.

Jolie is close to a deal to play the title character, a CIA officer who’s accused by a defector of being a Russian sleeper spy and must elude capture long enough to establish her innocence.

Cruise had long flirted with the project, but that ended recently. The well-regarded script had several male movie stars circling.

Jolie took a liking to it, prompting the studio’s decision to rewrite it. Sources said the project won’t require that much of an overhaul to suit her.

After Universal beefed up Jolie’s role in “Wanted” and then marketed the action film squarely on Jolie’s shoulders and watched it gross $132 million domestically, Jolie reestablished, in the wake of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” that she is the rare female who is viable in the action genre, which has been almost the exclusive domain of men.

“Edwin A. Salt” will undergo a title change, and if everything falls into place, the film shapes up as a return vehicle for Jolie, who recently gave birth to twins. Another candidate for her return is the Lionsgate drama “Atlas Shrugged,” which has been adapted by Randall Wallace from the Ayn Rand novel.

Jolie, who also provided a lead voice in the DreamWorks Animation hit “Kung Fu Panda,” drew strong notices at the Cannes Film Festival for her starring role in the Clint Eastwood-directed drama “Changeling” for Imagine and Universal. That film opens in late October.

Jolie is managed by Media Talent’s Geyer Kosinski.

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