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Kilmer suits up for ‘Mars’

Hoffman making feature helming bow

Val Kilmer is near a deal to topline the Warner Bros./Village Roadshow co-production “Mars” (formerly titled “Alone”), putting the project on the launchpad for an early fall takeoff.

Kilmer’s deal is said to be “95% finished,” with some participation points to be ironed out in the coming days. It’s understood Kilmer will make between the $6 million he took home for “The Saint” in 1997 and the reported $9 million he earned for his last release, “At First Sight.”

Commercials helmer Antony Hoffman is making his feature debut on “Mars,” which was written by Chuck Pfarrer and Jonathan Lemkin.

Stranded on Red Planet

Pic follows the adventures of one of the astronaut’s aboard the first manned mission to Mars. After he is stranded on the Red Planet alone, he discovers certain truths about the mission that make his rescue all the more urgent.

With Kilmer onboard, Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow are looking to begin production in late August or early September in Iceland and Australia.

Mark Canton is producing along with Warner Bros.-based producer Jorge Saralegui. It’s understood that Australia-based producer Andrew Mason, who exec produced WB/Village Roadshow’s “The Matrix,” also will be brought on in some producer capacity as well.

Rocket aimed at Disney

Kilmer’s commitment to star in the film gets “Mars” back in the race with Disney’s competing Mars project, “Mission to Mars,” to be directed by Brian De Palma and to star Tim Robbins, Gary Sinise and Don Cheadle. The Disney project is slated to begin production in July, with expectations for an early summer 2000 release.

In addition to Disney’s competing project, Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow needed to get a “Mars” cast in place in order to take advantage of benign weather conditions in Iceland.

For Kilmer, “Mars” marks a return to the studio where he had his biggest commercial success, “Batman Forever” in 1995. Kilmer also co-starred in Michael Mann’s “Heat” that same year.

Strained relationship

But relations between the studio and star were strained after Kilmer bowed out of reprising his role as the caped crusader in “Batman and Robin,” to which he was contractually obligated. He opted instead to do Paramount’s “The Saint,” which was released in 1997.

Since then, Kilmer has provided the voice of Moses in DreamWorks’ “The Prince of Egypt,” co-starred with Mira Sorvino in MGM’s “At First Sight” and appeared in Frank Whaley’s low-budget indie, “Joe the King.”

Kilmer recently shot a cameo in actor Ed Harris’ upcoming biopic of artist Jackson Pollock, in which Kilmer portrayed fellow artist Willem de Kooning.

Kilmer is repped by CAA.