Wagner heads to ‘Saigon’ with Daniels

'Precious' director to helm musical adaptation

In what would be her first film producing project since leaving the CEO slot at United Artists in 2008, Paula Wagner is mobilizing a screen version of “Miss Saigon” as a directing vehicle for Lee Daniels.

Daniels, who has drawn festival acclaim for his second feature, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” has alluded to the possibility in red carpet interviews, but his reps say it’s one of several possible next projects. And movie transfers of big musicals are tough to pull off.

Still, Wagner intends to move quickly, under her newly formed Chestnut Ridge Prods. banner.

She will produce the film with Cameron Mackintosh, who produced the West End-Broadway musical.

A screenwriter is about to be hired, and financing discussions are under way with an eye toward getting the film into production next year for a 2011 release, sources said.

The movie will be faithful to Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil’s tragic love story of a Vietnamese bar girl and an American soldier before the fall of Saigon in 1975. “Miss Saigon,” which opened on the West End in 1989 and played on Broadway for nearly 10 years, has been performed in 25 countries.

Wagner was Tom Cruise’s longtime CAA agent before becoming his partner in Cruise/Wagner Prods.. After producing such films as the “Mission: Impossible” trilogy, they agreed to steer UA for ex-MGM topper Harry Sloan, generating such films as “Lions for Lambs” and “Valkyrie” before Wagner returned to producing.

Wagner is separately developing a stage musical about the rise of hip-hop pioneers Run-DMC.

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