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Brest signs for 2 more U years

Director Martin Brest (“Scent of a Woman”) has re-upped with Universal Studios for another two years, extending a relationship between the studio and the director’s City Light Films that began in 1988.

“I decided to stay with Universal because there is a great level of mutual trust and respect,” Brest said. “There’s a certain kind of support there that is particularly important to me.”

The first project Brest is likely to direct will be “Death Takes a Holiday,” an adaptation of Alberto Cassello’s play; Kevin Wade is currently doing a rewrite of the script by Ron Osborn and Jeff Reno. There is no production start date yet, although the project is on a fast track.

The first-look deal with U comes at a time when the Oscar-nominated director and Alex Gartner, City Light veepee of development, are building a slate of films to be directed by helmers other than Brest.

“What we’d like to do is develop projects with first- or second-time directors and offer them a helping hand,” Brest said.

The first of those kind of projects is the adventure family pic “Josh and S.A.M.,” a Castle Rock picture that Columbia will release Aug. 27. It’s directed by Billy Weber.

“This marks his first directing job,” Brest said. “He was an editor on ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ and ‘Midnight Run.’ I knew he wanted to direct and we started developing this project.”

Gartner said the “Josh” experience went “so well” that the company is developing a second project for Weber, based on the life story of Teddy Nadler.

Nadler was a $ 1.78-an-hour store clerk who, in the late 1950s, went on the ” $ 64,000 Challenge” TV show and won more money than anyone who had ever been on the show. James Andrew Miller is writing the script.

Other projects in the pipeline include an untitled psychological thriller written by Wayne and Donna Powers. City Light Films is looking to attach a director.

“Martin intends to produce more films for other directors at this point,” said Gartner, who was one of the producers on Paramount’s “Indecent Proposal.”

“And now that we’ve made the deal with Universal, we’re going to work to expand our slate with those kind of projects,” he said.

Talking about the reasons behind his extended pact at U, Brest pointed to “Scent of a Woman,” which he said was a non-commercial project that had a lot of stages that could have been problematic.

“There were a lot of things where the studio just had to go on trust, which they did,” he said. “It was because of that relationship that the film proceeded very smoothly. I feel that they were the ones who put their necks on the line to back my requests and that deserves certain loyalties.”