Arnold to duel devil

Schwarzenegger toplining Beacon/U 'Days' thriller

Arnold Schwarzenegger is set to duel with the Devil in the supernatural thriller “End of Days” for Beacon Pictures and Universal, sources said Wednesday.

Schwarzenegger will join the “Air Force One” team of Beacon producer Armyan Bernstein and writer Andrew Marlowe on the pic, which Beacon plans to shoot this summer.

The pic will be financed by Beacon, which will retain worldwide rights. Universal is expected to distribute domestically through its deal with Beacon, but that pact hasn’t been finalized.

Pic will mark Schwarzenegger’s first effort since “Batman & Robin,” for which he took home $25 million. It is not clear what his payday will be for “End of Days,” though one source said, “It’s his going rate.” His last starring role was in 20th Century Fox’s “Jingle All the Way.”

Schwarzenegger, who likes to take his time making decisions on projects but had been eyeing the pic for several weeks, had been attached to Warner Bros.’ “I Am Legend,” but the film fell apart recently over budget issues. He also had been considering the Oliver Stone-produced feature version of “S.W.A.T.” for TriStar Pictures.

“End of Days,” which will carry a budget in the $100 million area, is currently out to directors. Schwarzenegger has approval over the choice.

Set at the turn of the millennium, pic is about a visit by Satan to New York City to search for a bride. Schwarzenegger will play an ex-cop who now runs an elite Gotham security outfit and must foil the plan.

Beacon was eager to work with Marlowe after the smash success of “Air Force One,” last summer’s Harrison Ford starrer that earned more than $320 million worldwide.

Schwarzenegger’s deal was brokered by the William Morris Agency.

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