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O’Connell stakes out ‘Cow’ lead

Thesp to star in Destination's romantic comedy

Jerry O’Connell is in final negotiations to topline Destination Films’ impending-nuptial comedy, “Buying the Cow.”

Pic will mark the directorial debut of Walt Becker, who co-wrote the script with Peter Nelson. Destination co-head of production Brad Jenkel ushered the project in, and will serve as producer along with exec Dan Etheridge. Destination toppers Brent Baum and Steve Stabler will exec produce.

“Cow” is a romantic comedy about the transition from dating a potential spouse to actually settling down with one. O’Connell will play David, a young man whose girlfriend of five years finally demands that he make her a solid offer. Feeling backed into a corner, David hits the dating scene with a vengeance. “Cow” is being fast-tracked, with Destination solidifying an early-November start date.

Jenkel called the pic “a much funnier version of ‘the ultimatum movie,’ ” fresh in its approach in that “the female is active in her search as well, and not just waiting for the guy to make a decision. … She starts to explore the possibilities of life without him as well.”

Femme lead has not yet been cast, nor has the couple’s advice-spewing circle of friends.

O’Connell made his bigscreen debut as an awkward pre-teen in Rob Reiner’s “Stand by Me.” He has since appeared in “Jerry Maguire,” “Scream 2” and the NBC mini “The ’60s.” The actor’s upcoming projects include New Line’s “Body Shots,” and the Brian de Palma-directed “Mission To Mars,” starring Tim Robbins. Upon completing work on “Buying the Cow,” O’Connell will begin lensing the Brian Robbins-helmed (“Varsity Blues”) “First Daughter” for New Regency. O’Connell also penned the script about the teenage daughter of the president who wants to attend college without the supervision of the secret service.

O’Connell’s “Cow” deal was brokered by Scott Lambert and John Fogelman of William Morris, and attorney Steve Burkow of Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca and Fischer.

Becker, who authored the novel “Link,” is also working on a screenplay adaptation. Becker and Nelson were both repped by Endeavor, and Destination exec veepee of legal and business affairs, Neil Sacker, handled the deal on their behalf.

Destination Films’ first feature, “Bats,” is due in theaters later this month.