Film goes into production later this year

Pete Segal has emerged as the frontrunner to direct “Little Fockers,” the third installment in the Universal Pictures/Tribeca Prods. franchise.

Segal was expecting to return as the director of “Get Smart 2″ this year but became available when Steve Carell instead made a deal to team with Tina Fey in the Shawn Levy-directed comedy “Date Night” for Fox.

John Hamburg scripted the third installment. It is the first in the series (“Meet the Parents,” “Meet the Fockers”) not to be directed by Jay Roach. The franchise is one of U’s most lucrative, with a combined worldwide gross just north of $820 million.

Segal, who has also directed such comedy hits as “Tommy Boy,” “The Longest Yard” and “50 First Dates,” is meeting with the film’s principal players this week. Universal will get the film into production later this year. Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal produce.

If the stars align, Segal will direct “Little Fockers” and have plenty of time to complete his work and be ready to helm “Get Smart 2″ for Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures.

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