Director set for Mandate Pictures comedy

Tom Bezucha is attached to direct the coming-of-age comedy “The Way Back” for Mandate Pictures.

Shawn Levy had been attached to direct, but he dropped out to helm the “Night at the Museum” sequel. Levy is producing alongside Paul Young and Peter Principato.

Story centers on a teenage boy who, during one amazing summer, forms an unlikely friendship that gives him the strength to reconnect with his mother and the courage to stand up to his bullying stepfather.

Penned by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the script has been one of the hottest projects in Hollywood for the past two years, helping to land the scribe duo on Variety‘s 2008 10 Screenwriters to Watch list.

Young, who developed the script with the pair in early 2007, brought the project to Levy, who immediately committed to direct. Young and Levy then brought the script to Fox Searchlight, which greenlit the picture immediately. But the pre-WGA strike window proved to be too small, and Levy had to begin prepping “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.”

The producers then got the script back from Searchlight, and Mandate acquired it. Mandate has “The Way Back” on the fast track, with shooting scheduled to begin later in the year.

Mandate’s Nathan Kahane will executive produce alongside Principato-Young’s Brian Dobbins and 21 Laps’ Tom McNulty.

Fox-based Principato-Young is producing the Frank Coraci helming vehicle “The Bender” at New Line and “Til Beth Do Us Part” at Warner Bros., which was written and will be directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. PYE is in post-production on “The Joneses.”

Faxon and Rash also are adapting “The Descendents” for Alexander Payne’s Ad Hominem shingle at Searchlight.

After helming 2005’s ensemble comedy “The Family Stone,” Bezucha became an in-demand director. “The Way Back” will likely mark his follow up to that project.

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