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Universal circles Rinsch for ’47 Ronin’

Director in advance talks for Keanu Reeves starrer

Universal Pictures is near a deal with Carl Erik Rinsch to make his feature directing debut on “47 Ronin,” the epic period samurai swordsmen tale that will star Keanu Reeves.

Scott Stuber is producing through his Stuber Pictures banner, with Pam Abdy also aboard in a producing capacity.

Pic is a priority project for Universal, and it is unusual to see a first-timer entrusted to helm a film with a large budget and tentpole aspirations.

Rinsch, who shoots commercials for RSA, has been on Hollywood’s radar. RSA owners Ridley and Tony Scott previously had discussions with Rinsch to direct a prequel to “Aliens,” until Ridley Scott decided to return to the franchise he launched.

Rinsch is known for shooting visual and stylish blurbs for such brands as Mercedes, Sprite, BMW and Heineken.

Actioner “47 Ronin” tells the famous fact-based story of a band of samurai swordsmen who avenge the death of their master in 18th century Japan. The Chris Morgan (“Wanted”) script was tailored so that the half-Asian Reeves can play one of the swordsmen. The picture mixes the fantastical elements of films like “The Lord of the Rings” with battle scenes of the sort found in “Gladiator” and “300.”

Walter Hamada, Chris Fenton and Erwin Stoff are exec producers.

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