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Cuaron takes aim on ‘Jury’ premise

Helmer, Grisham revamp story

More than two years after the bigscreen adaptation of the John Grisham bestseller “The Runaway Jury” fell apart, director Alfonso Cuaron has been sequestered to resuscitate the project for New Regency and Warner Bros.

Development of the pic halted because the plot — about a jury foreman manipulating a jury in a landmark tobacco case — lost its thunder when the tobacco companies began losing lawsuits. The project, a high-profile adaptation, was to be directed by Joel Schumacher and star Edward Norton, Gwyneth Paltrow and possibly Sean Connery.

Cuaron and Grisham have engineered a way to get the project back on track: They’ve snuffed the cigarette angle and are considering instead a plotline about a landmark legal case targeting the gun lobby. That angle is certainly more timely, given the shootings at Columbine High in Littleton, Colo., and the North Valley Jewish Center in Los Angeles. It’s also an issue near and dear to Grisham, an outspoken opponent of gratuitous violence in films.

Cuaron, who last helmed “Great Expectations” with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke and also the critically acclaimed “A Little Princess,” has been quietly working with Grisham and New Regency to change the premise. It’s believed they will also be working from the original script, first adapted by Grisham and T. R. Pearson, with Greg Poirier also doing a draft.

High priority

Getting the film back on track is a high priority for New Regency, which paid $8 million to buy the book and a lot more on its development. That included a pay or play deal with Norton, who was paid off and won’t be involved in the resuscitated “Jury” project.

A New Regency spokeswoman said that no deal has been made for Cuaron, who is repped by Endeavor.