Spielberg, Chernin may climb aboard adventure show

Fox Broadcasting is in the process of lining up heavyweights for an ambitious drama series that may put Steven Spielberg back in the dinosaur biz.

Spielberg and Peter Chernin are in negotiations to board the drama project “Terra Nova,” which is described as following a family from 100 years in the future who travel back in time 150 million years to the strange and inhospitable environs of prehistoric Earth.

The 20th Century Fox TV project, which is said to have drawn special attention from Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Rice, would involve such elaborate sets and vfx that there’s been talk of greenlighting it directly to series production rather than a pilot because it would be too expensive to shut down and start up again during the downtime between pilot and episodic production.

The script for “Terra Nova” was co-written by Craig Silverstein and British scribe Kelly Marcel, from an idea of Marcel’s. Marcel had been shopping the project to Brit TV buyers when Aaron Kaplan, the former WMA TV chief turned manager-producer, got wind of the idea and convinced her to bring “Terra Nova” across the pond. Kaplan then recruited Silverstein, a former client of his, to partner with Marcel. Fox and CBS made big plays for the project when it was shopped to domestic nets last summer.

If “Terra Nova” gets the greenlight, Silverstein and Marcel would serve as exec producers along with Kaplan. Spielberg and Chernin would also exec produce, natch, but sources cautioned that there are no formal deals yet in place for either honcho. If Spielberg comes aboard, DreamWorks TV stewards Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank would also sign on as exec producers, as would Chernin Entertainment TV topper Katherine Pope.

Reps for all of the principals declined comment on the project.

Chernin Entertainment has hefty guaranteed annual production commitments from the Fox network as part of its rich film and TV production pact with 20th Century Fox, and “Terra Nova” could fulfill one of those commitments on the series side. Spielberg, of course, has familiarity with the “Terra Nova” terrain from helming and producing 1993’s “Jurassic Park” and 1997’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.”

Silverstein will be co-creator and exec producer of “Terra Nova,” but he’s in first position on a Warner Bros. TV pilot that has been greenlit by the CW, a new take on “La Femme Nikita” (Daily Variety, Jan. 28). Marcel is also fielding a script for Showtime, “Westbridge,” through Thomas Schlamme’s Shoe Money Prods. banner.

Once the final producer pieces are sorted out, Fox and 20th are expected to begin shopping for a showrunner to get “Terra Nova” on its feet.

Silverstein is repped by WME. Marcel is repped by CAA, the U.K.’s Casarotto Ramsay & Associates and Kaplan through his Kapital Entertainment banner.

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