TriStar Pictures has negotiated a deal with Jeremiah Chechik to direct Joel Gross’ script of “The Three Musketeers,” moving the studio one step forward in its charge to beat Disney on the remake of the Alexandre Dumas classic.

To be produced by Allyn Stewart at Stewart Pictures, TriStar’s “Musketeers” is going out to actors for casting shortly. The project could go into production in spring 1993. Stewart did not return calls seeking comment.

Chechik’s addition to the TriStar project turns up the heat on its competition with Disney for “The Three Musketeers.” TriStar and Disney appear to be running neck-and-neck in separate efforts to get to the big screen with Dumas’ 1844 novel.

Two other “Three Musketeers” projects appear to still be percolating in Hollywood, including producer Jon Peters’ version for ColPix and Vision Intl.’s “D’Artagnan” with screenwriter/director Gene Quintano attached (Daily Variety, June 30).

As reported, Disney acquired screenwriter David Loughery’s adaptation of “The Three Musketeers” with a preemptive offer of $ 650,000 against $ 850,000 earlier this year (Daily Variety, April 27). Loughery’s screenplay is described as an amalgam of the original “Three Musketeers” story and the buddy repartee of the “Lethal Weapon” franchise.

Disney has since brought producers Avnet/Kerner Co. and “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” director Stephen Herek into the loop. Avnet/Kerner partner Jordan Kerner and Herek are slated to begin scouting European locations for “Musketeers” shortly, with an eye toward a 1993 start.

At TriStar, “The Three Musketeers” is slated to become Chechik’s next movie after he delivers the Johnny Depp/Mary Stuart Masterson/Aidan Quinn starrer “Benny and Joon” to MGM. A top commercial director, Chechik previously helmed Warner Bros.’ 1989 release “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” International Creative Management represented Chechik.

At the studio, “Three Musketeers” falls under the aegis of TriStar president Marc Platt, president of production Stacey Lassally, veepee of production Michael Besman and director of development Amy Bosley.

Screenwriter Gross has been dealing a hot hand at TriStar. Originally supported at the studio by Bosley, Besman and Lassally, he currently has a two-picture deal that covers rewriting “Taking Liberty” for producer Gale Anne Hurd and director Martin Campbell and Amblin Entertainment’s “Zorro,” a project potentially earmarked for director Steven Spielberg.

Gross’ version of “Three Musketeers” is described as a sophisticated and faithful adaptation of the Dumas classic. WMA agents Jeff Field and Dodie Gold represented Gross in the TriStar negotiations.