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Softley helming ‘Boy’ for NL

Hedges script based on Hornby book

“Wings of the Dove” helmer Iain Softley has signed to direct New Line Cinema’s “About a Boy” (formerly titled “Father Figure”), the feature adaptation of Nick Hornby’s recent novel.

Peter Hedges (“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”) penned the adaptation of the bestselling romantic comedy about a bored, aimless and terminally hip single man, who pretends to have a child so he can woo women. However, he falls in love with one of his targets and becomes a father figure to her 12-year-old son.

Tribeca Films’ Robert DeNiro, Jane Rosenthal and Brad Epstein will produce the project, which New Line has been actively developing since late last year when the studio coughed up a reported $2.75 million for the rights to the then-unpublished manuscript.

New Line exec VP of production Lynn Harris is overseeing the project for the studio that, with Softley on board, is expected to begin casting the film as soon as Softley and Hedges finish work on the screenplay.

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“We’re thrilled to have Iain,” said Harris. “I though ‘Wings of the Dove’ was brilliant and his ideas on this material were right on. We’re excited about working with this entire team — Iain, Peter (Hedges) and Nick (Hornby).”

Though the character of Will, the 36-year-old lead, is a North Londoner in the novel, in the screenplay he is from the U.S. and the role possibly will be cast with an American actor, but the story remains based in England.

“Boy” looks likely to be Softley’s next directorial outing, although the former video helmer also has been developing the indies “The Boathouse” (a mystical thriller with Milla Jovovich attached to star) and “Marlowe” (a biopic of 16th century playwright Christopher Marlowe) as well as Universal’s feature version of Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler,” written by Christopher Hampton.

Softley’s Forthcoming Prods. also recently inked a producing-directing deal for U.K.-based projects with Channel 4 Films.

Prior to his breakout stint with “Wings of the Dove,” Softley helmed the Brit rumination of the early Beatles, “Backbeat,” which was followed by his first U.S.-produced pic, “Hackers,” for United Artists.

Softley is represented by ICM, attorney Craig Emanuel and his London agent Jenne Casarotto.

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