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Stern signs helming pact with Fox

On the heels of last summer’s successful “Rookie of the Year,” Daniel Stern has signed a two-year exclusive first-look directing deal with 20th Century Fox.

Stern, who stars in Castle Rock/Columbia’s “City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold,” due out June 10, has now made the commitment to split his time between acting and directing.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to have two tracks going at once,” Stern said. “I also can’t give up anything.”

Tom Jacobson, Fox’s prexy of worldwide production, stressed that the studio had been intent on keeping Stern within the Fox family.

“He made his very successful debut as a director for us with ‘Rookie’ and his first major role as an actor was in Fox’s ‘Breaking Away,’ ” Jacobson said. “He also helped make studio history with his performances in ‘Home Alone’ and ‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.’ ”

Stern actually got his directing break while Joe Roth was Fox’s chairman, as the two had become friends after Roth directed Stern in “Coupe De Ville.”

“Joe knew I was snooping around to direct,” Stern said. “So he called me up one day and said he had the perfect script for me.”

That script, “Rookie of the Year,” about a kid named Henry who was a Little League pitcher, paralleled the experiences of Stern’s own son, who, incidentally , is named Henry.

“That was probably the initial attraction,” Stern said. “But the idea behind the story was so crystal clear, it made my first directing try very easy.”

Stern was in the midst of filming “Rookie” when Roth left Fox and was replaced by Peter Chernin, a transition that he says did not affect filming at all.

“We never missed a beat,” Stern said. “And the new regime was very supportive and hands-off during the editing process.”

In setting up shop on the Fox lot, Stern will have Laura Moskowitz as his senior veepee of production and development. At this early stage, the actor/director said he is in the process of searching for a new directing project. At this time, he’s not committed to any acting assignments either.

“I hope to find another idea that was as clear as ‘Rookie of the Year,’ ” he noted.

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