Zlotoff on ‘Zero’

'Spitfire' helmer takes reins of Fox thriller

Lee David Zlotoff, the creator of TV’s “MacGyver” and the writer-director of the indie pic “The Spitfire Grill,” is set to take the helm of “Zero Hour” for 20th Century Fox.

Deborah Schindler and Jan De Bont will produce the pic from Cynthia Cidre’s adaptation of the novel by Joseph Finder. De Bont had signed in May to direct the project, but pulled out to instead helm “Ghost Riders in the Sky” for Fox 2000 (Daily Variety, June 18).

“Zero Hour” is a thriller that focuses on a female FBI agent — a counterterrorism expert and divorced mother of an 8-year-old boy — summoned to investigate a threat made on a powerful and important banker.

Start date near

The producers are out to cast on the film, which is still slated for an early 1998 start.

Since De Bont dropped out of helming the pic six months ago, several top directors have flirted with the project, and Fox has brought the budget down from the event film neighborhood to a more modest sum.

Zlotoff created the “MacGyver” TV series, which began its run in 1985, and has written such telefilms as “Waco & Rhinehart” and two “MacGyver” telepics. He emerged on the feature scene during the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, where his writing-helming debut, “The Spitfire Grill,” premiered to enormous fanfare and a $10 million check from Castle Rock Entertainment, which bought the distribution rights to the indie.

Since then he has been developing “The Falcon’s Eye,” a starring vehicle for Robert Redford at TriStar Pictures, which Zlotoff would direct. Zlotoff also is developing his script “Bunco,” which he may direct at Castle Rock.

Zlotoff was represented by United Talent Agency.

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