DreamWorks woos Clooney from U for ‘Peacemaker’

“ER” heartthrob George Clooney’s plan to spend his hiatus from the top-rated show playing the title character in “The Green Hornet” has abruptly changed. Sources said he’s close to making a deal to topline the first greenlit movie from DreamWorks, the post-Cold War drama “The Peacemaker.”

It’s inspired by an unpublished Vanity Fair article written by journos Leslie and Andrew Cockburn. The project, scripted by Michael Schiffer (“Crimson Tide”), is about a nuclear threat on the black market. The film starts second unit photography in Eastern Europe in April, with principal photography in May. No director has been signed yet, but sources said DreamWorks film toppers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald have a short list of directors, with the dark horse candidate being Mimi Leder, who won an Emmy for “ER.”

Sources said there was a major political tug of war over Clooney in U corridors last week, because the studio’s high hopes for “Green Hornet” went higher when Clooney was locked into the film.

But “The Peacemaker” is the first pic from the company launched by Steven Spielberg, whose Amblin Entertainment produces “ER,” to which Clooney owes his new-found movie career. Spielberg’s also the guy who recently agreed to direct a sequel to “Jurassic Park,” a major priority for Universal.

Spielberg used that leverage to extricate Clooney from a signed “Hornet” deal, a stinging setback for U. No details were available on Clooney’s price, but it’s believed to be comparable to the $3 million he was due to play journalist-superhero Britt Reid. He was to be paired with Jason Scott Lee as Kato, with Sam Raimi in talks to direct the movie adaptation of the 1966 ABC series this spring. Clooney would star in the film if U waits for his next opening, but sources said it seems likely they’ll go elsewhere to keep the film on track. For their part in acting as peacemakers to keep Spielberg happy, U execs get the consolation of being able to distribute “Peacemaker” in most foreign territories, while DreamWorks will handle domestic.

William Morris’ Michael Gruber made Clooney’s deal.

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