A ‘Happiness’ helmer

Cattaneo to direct film for National Geographic

Peter Cattaneo (“The Rocker”) will direct “Gross National Happiness,” an exploration of golfing in Bhutan, for National Geographic Films.

National Geographic is financing the movie through its partnership with Imagenation Abu Dhabi. The banner’s aiming to begin production early next year.

Lloyd Segan and Shawn Piller (“The Dead Zone”) will produce for Piller/Segan/Shepherd, along with Adam Fratto. National Geographic Films prexy Adam Leipzig will produce, and Laura Lodin will also have a producing role; in addition, Matt Wool, who originated the project, will produce with Scott Goldman (“My Sister’s Keeper”).

Story, penned by Yuri Zeltser and Grace Cary Bickley (“Spinning Boris”), centers on Carl Marinello, who tutored Bhutan’s golf team for the 1986 Asian Games, at which Bhutan finished ahead of China. “Gross National Happiness” refers to Bhutan’s efforts — launched in the early 1970s — to officially measure happiness in terms of Buddhist spiritual values.

Essential Entertainment, led by Jere Hausfater, is handling international sales as part of an overall deal with National Geographic. Imagenation’s $100 million deal with National Georgraphic calls for producing 10-15 features in the $5 million-$60 million budget range over five years.

Cattaneo’s also directed “The Full Monty” and “Opal Dream.”

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