Chernin boards Fox pics

DiCaprio attached to star in 'Goodbye'

Peter Chernin is making his presence felt on the 20th Century Fox lot, with the former News Corp. prexy’s shingle coming onboard several film projects that were already in development at the studio.

The most prominent of the bunch is “The Deep Blue Goodbye,” an adaptation of the John D. MacDonald mystery novel series that has Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star.

Chernin joins Appian Way’s DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran as producers on the project penned by Dana Stevens (“For Love of the Game”). Amy Robinson also is involved in a producing capacity.

DiCaprio is in line to play Travis McGee, a self-described beach bum who lives aboard 52-foot houseboat the Busted Flush and alleviates his cash-flow problems by hiring on as a “salvage consultant.” He recovers property for clients, taking a hefty percentage and getting into a lot of danger and romance in sun-drenched Florida. “The Deep Blue Goodbye,” the first in a 21-volume bestselling Travis McGee series, was originally published in 1964.

Chernin, who in June named veteran Universal Pictures production exec Dylan Clark to run his film division, is expected to emerge as an aggressive buyer for material to feed both his film and TV shingles. Clark, who signed when he had six months left on his U contract, doesn’t officially start until October.

Other percolating Fox projects Chernin is boarding include “Queen and Country,” an adaptation of the Greg Rucka-created Oni Press comicbook about a female agent hunted after she carries out a high-level assassination in Eastern Europe. Ryan Condal is writing the script. Jenno Topping was already aboard as producer.

Chernin also has joined as producer on “Man and Wife,” an Alan McElroy action-thriller spec about a hitman who pretends to be an average husband, and a wife who learns to love him in a totally unexpected way. Ralph Winter came attached to produce when the project was acquired last year.

Execs transitioning to producers often get started by coming aboard projects they shepherded or liked. Observers said that Chernin’s deal is so strong — he has two “put pictures” per year for the next six years — that he can be a powerful ally in getting pictures made at a time when mounting midbudget dramas is more difficult than ever.

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