Paramount taps 'Taken' helmer for sci-fi adaptation

Paramount Pictures has set Pierre Morel to direct “Dune,” the latest adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi classic novel.

Morel, who last directed the action hit “Taken,” has signed a deal with the studio and will work to hone the script. Pic is one of the biggest priorities on the slate of Par Motion Picture Group prexy Adam Goodman.

Kevin Misher’s Misher Films will produce with New Amsterdam’s Richard Rubenstein, who produced the telepic “Dune” and the sequel “Children of Dune.”

The film had been developed by Peter Berg, who exited when he committed to Universal’s “Battleship” based on the Hasbro board game.

U set a July 1, 2011, release for that film and committed to follow with Berg’s passion project, the Afghan war drama “Lone Survivor.” Those back-to-back directing gigs will keep Berg busy for at least two years.

Berg developed a “Dune” draft with Josh Zetumer, the scribe who has also been penning the fourth installment in the “Bourne” franchise for Universal. Paramount will work off Zetumer’s draft, but the studio will secure another writer shortly.

“Dune” was first turned into a film by David Lynch, whose 1984 effort was not a financial success. Herbert’s novel — about a galactic struggle to control the supply of a valuable spice found only on the desert planet Arrakis — remains the biggest-selling sci-fi novel, and it’s still enormously popular.

In December 1974, a French consortium led by Jean-Paul Gibon purchased the film rights to “Dune” from Arthur P. Jacobs. Chilean helmer Alejandro Jodorowsky was set to direct a 10-hour feature adaptation, with Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, Herve Villechaize, Mick Jagger, Gloria Swanson, David Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin and Alain Delon collaborating, but that effort never got past pre-production.

Morel is a longtime fan who brought his well-worn copy of the novel with him to meetings at Paramount, sources said.

Deal makes “Dune” a candidate to be the next directing assignment for Morel, who is also in early stage development on a sequel to “Taken.” In addition he is developing “Pursuit,” an action thriller at Universal based on the exploits of conflict photographer Jason Howe. Howe fell in love with a woman while on assignment in Colombia, only to discover she was an assassin.

Morel’s John Travolta starrer “From Paris With Love” bows Feb. 5 through Lionsgate.

He is repped by WME and Artist Talent Management.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more