'Basterds' thesp to play villain in Columbia film

Christoph Waltz, who is generating raves for his role as a Nazi colonel in “Inglourious Basterds,” has signed on to play the villain in Columbia Pictures’ action comedy “The Green Hornet.”

Waltz will play Chudnofsky, a Los Angeles crime boss who tries to unite the city’s various gangs in order to form a supermafia.

The Austrian actor replaces Nicolas Cage, who had been in talks to take the role but walked away from negotiations last week when a contract couldn’t be finalized.

Seth Rogen plays the titular role in “The Green Hornet,” a newspaper publisher by day who becomes a masked crime fighter at night. Asian pop star Jay Chou plays his martial arts-skilled sidekick and chauffeur Kato, while Cameron Diaz plays the love interest.

Waltz, who’s a regular on German television, won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his role in “Basterds.” His credits also include the films “Lapislazuli,” “Gun-Shy,” “Falling Rocks” and “Ordinary Decent Criminal.”

Michel Gondry is helming “Hornet” from a script by Rogen and Evan Goldberg that’s based upon “The Green Hornet” radio series by George W. Trendle. Neal H. Moritz is producing.

Pic, which had originally been skedded for release next summer, will now bow Dec. 17, 2010.

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