Secret agent may be subject of director's next film

Might secret agent Matt Helm provide the answer to which film Steven Spielberg will next helm?

Spielberg is seriously considering a film that DreamWorks developed for several years before leaving it behind at Paramount as part of the divorce settlement between the two companies. But the question of whether Spielberg will direct involves a series of complex issues that touch on the relationship between Paramount and DreamWorks, and the latter studio’s new finance partner, Reliance.

Spielberg’s camp said he is attached to produce, but it’s unclear if he’s going to direct. Clearly, Spielberg is excited about the project again after the rewrite that Paul Attanasio delivered last week.

While some DreamWorks-developed projects left behind at Paramount give Spielberg and Stacey Snider the option to co-finance and co-distribute, “Matt Helm” isn’t one of them. The picture is 100% owned by Par.

As Spielberg and Snider near the closing of their financing and their new deal with Disney, they would like nothing more than to have those partners be part of Spielberg’s next picture. But Paramount isn’t obligated to make that deal, and it’s unclear whether the studio will step up to Spielberg’s traditionally rich deal terms.

Confident that “Matt Helm” can launch a franchise, Par brass have an interesting decision to make. The studio, which has made a concerted effort to cut back on first-dollar gross deals, could save money by going with another filmmaker.

But who better to create a franchise’s footprint than the most commercially successful director on the planet?

“Matt Helm” is based on a series of 27 novels written by Donald Hamilton about a government agent whose mission is to take down enemy agents. While the novels were set in the post-WWII Cold War era, the current script is set in the present. While a series of tongue-in-cheek films were made with Dean Martin playing Helm as a playboy spy, the tone of Attanasio’s script is closer to that of “The Bourne Identity.”

Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are producing.

The drama is expected to play out by week’s end.

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