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‘Fantastic’ plans for James Cameron

Salerno to adapt remake of the 1966 sci-fi film

As he eyes a return to outer space for “Avatar” sequels, James Cameron appears to be heading to inner space by putting “Fantastic Voyage” on the front burner.

20th Century Fox has tapped Shane Salerno (“Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem”) to adapt a remake of the 1966 sci-fi film, which will be produced by Cameron.

Although Cameron has never expressed interest in helming the pic — which centers on a dying scientist whose only chance for survival rests with five colleagues who are miniaturized and injected into his bloodstream — he would employ the same pricey 3-D and digital technology on “Fantastic” that was used in “Avatar,” insiders say.

In fact, Cameron and Jon Landau’s Lightstorm Entertainment will likely launch several pics for Fox in the coming years in an effort to amortize the millions invested in “Avatar’s” technology.

“Fantastic” may soon be joined in the active development queue by a new pair of “Avatars.”

Cameron talked up two potential sequels during a press conference before Thursday’s London premiere.

“When I pitched it to Fox, they said, ‘We’ve spent a lot of money creating all these assets, all these CG mountains, plants, trees, leaves, flowers, bugs’ — everything you saw up there on screen had been made by people at workstations over a period of years and so they have value,” said Cameron, who told the assembled U.K. media outlets that he has worked out the story for a second and third film.

“So in terms of the pitch it was: OK, you’ve spent a lot of money on the first one; on the second one we’ll be able to amortize it and focus on the story and all that … and they bought that.”

While Fox said the property clearly has sequel potential, the studio would not confirm any definitive plans on future “Avatar” installments.

As for “Fantastic Voyage,” Fox will next need to find a director. Roland Emmerich had been attached to the project before he set his sights on the apocalyptic “2012.” Lately, Indian helmer Tarsem Singh has been rumored as a candidate.

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