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Beacon drafts Hyams to helm ‘End of Days’

Nispel bows out of Schwarzenegger pic

Director Peter Hyams is set to replace Marcus Nispel on Beacon Communications’ supernatural thriller “End of Days,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Musicvideo and commercial helmer Nispel, who was to make his feature debut on “End of Days,” dropped out of the pic a couple of weeks ago over what sources called “artistic differences.”

Because the $100 million film has been in pre-production and is scheduled for a late November start, Hyams already is at work on the project, fine-tuning the screenplay with scripter Andrew Marlowe.

The addition of Hyams marks a distinct change in direction for Beacon, which, with the hiring of Nispel, eschewed established Hollywood directors in favor of a hip, young shooter who presumably would have instilled the project with video-inspired flair.

Despite the absence of a provocative “manifesto” such as Nispel’s (which outlined the German helmer’s needs while in production, including: “producer should only talk to Marcus two-three times a day”), Hyams has friends in high places. Sources said James Cameron, a close friend of Hyams, suggested the helmer to Schwarzenegger, who in turn set things in motion by calling Hyams directly.

While several directors were mentioned for the job, Hyams had the backing of the star and a deal for his services was worked out late Friday among Beacon chairman and the film’s producer, Armyan Bernstein, and Hyams’ agents at Endeavor and his attorney, Barry Hirsch.

Hyams, a Hollywood veteran who often serves as director of photography on his projects, last directed and photographed the 1997 thriller “The Relic” for Paramount. Known for action-oriented pics, Hyams wrote and directed such films as the 1978 thriller “Capricorn One,” “The Star Chamber” and the Sean Connery starrer “Outland” (he also reteamed with Connery to direct “The Presidio”). He also wrote, produced, directed and shot “2010,” the 1984 sequel to “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Beacon is financing the pic and will handle international distribution. Universal will distribute “Days” in North America under its five-year, co-financing arrangement with Beacon.

Pic is set at the turn of the millennium, when Satan comes to New York City in search of a bride, and a former cop (Schwarzenegger) who heads an elite security firm is the only person who can stop the angel of darkness from destroying the world.

Robin Tunney also stars in the film.