DISNEY NET SIGNS UP KEATON

Diane Keaton has signed to executive produce and star in “Northern Lights,” an original two-hour movie for the Disney Channel that represents perhaps the highest-profile project in the channel’s history.

Film will be directed by Linda Yellen and is the first project to bear the executive producer stamp of actress Meg Ryan. She has the exec producing credit along with her Prufrock Pictures partner Nina R. Sadowsky, Keaton and Bill Robinson. Alliance Communications Corp. of Toronto produces.

Production is skedded for early April in Vancouver, with the Disney Channel premiere set for August.

Adapted by John Robert Hoffman and Kevin Kane from their play of the same name, “Northern Lights” tells the story of a New Yorker (Keaton) who, upon the death of her estranged younger brother, is summoned to a small Vermont town to collect an inheritance — his 9-year-old son, Jack.

Rich Ross, the Disney Channel’s senior VP of programming and production, said “Northern Lights” is an example of the channel’s new production emphasis on contemporary stories aimed at the web’s family aud.

“We want to send the message that this is the type of film and commitment that we’re going to be doing,” Ross said. “We’re not always necessarily going to have a big star. We just took out the bat in this case and hit a homerun. We got great writers and performers as part of this package.”

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