Tom Cruise circles ‘Matarese’

Actor in talks to join Denzel Washington film

Tom Cruise is getting ready to partner with Denzel Washington in “The Matarese Circle,” the David Cronenberg-directed adaptation of the Robert Ludlum thriller for MGM.

Cruise will go mano a mano with Washington as two bitter enemy spies who, after spending two decades trying to kill each other, grudgingly team up against the Matarese, a powerful group at the root of a conspiracy.

The script by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (“Wanted”) contemporizes Ludlum’s original Cold War premise.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler will produce with Jeffrey Weiner and Ben Smith’s newly formed Captivate Entertainment. Henry Morrison is exec producer.

While Cruise is a co-owner of Lion sibling studio United Artists, “The Matarese Circle” will strictly be an MGM picture. The combination of Cruise, Washington and Cronenberg makes “Matarese Circle” the marquee film under the new regime of MGM topper Mary Parent.

In the original $3 million deal made for the Ludlum title, MGM also acquired “The Matarese Countdown,” giving the studio a shot at creating a franchise, as Universal did with Ludlum’s “The Bourne Identity.” Cruise had been mentioned as the potential star of several plum projects around town before the pairing with Washington solidified.

Parent is gunning to get the thriller into production later this year for a 2010 release.

Cruise, who most recently starred in the Bryan Singer-directed UA drama “Valkyrie,” is expected to star next with Charlize Theron in “The Tourist,” the Bharat Nalluri-directed remake of the 2005 French thriller “Anthony Zimmer.” Spyglass is financing that drama.

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