Whitaker set for ‘Falconer’

Filmmaker to produce 'Puff'

Actor-director Forest Whitaker is attached to helm “The Falconer” for 20th Century Fox and Deborah Schindler Prods.

Whitaker, who last helmed “Hope Floats” for Fox, will develop the project with writer Cynthia Cidre (“The Mambo Kings,” “In Country”) as likely his next directorial outing.

In addition, Whitaker will produce “Puff the Magic Dragon,” a new pic from “Three Seasons” filmmakers Timothy and Tony Bui.

“The Falconer” would mark the third film Whitaker has helmed for Fox, where he made his feature debut with the 1995 hit “Waiting to Exhale,” also produced by Schindler. After going back in front of the camera in 1996 for “Phenomenon,” Whitaker returned to Fox in 1998 to helm the Sandra Bullock starrer “Hope Floats.”

“Falconer” is a romantic fantasy about a love affair between a married Northern California woman and the love of her life, a lonely pilot (and falcon aficionado). The relationship is put to the test when the woman finds out she is dying.

Fox exec VP Elizabeth Gabler is overseeing the project for Tom Rothman’s Fox film division.

Project is based on Elaine McCarthy’s novel, which Fox acquired in 1995 for Schindler and then-partner Ezra Swerdlow. At one point in its development, Agnieszka Holland had been attached to direct (from a Peter Barnes adaptation) and Sean Connery was to star, but neither is involved in the project at this time.

Whitaker — who stars in Jim Jarmusch’s current Cannes entry “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” — is repped by the William Morris Agency and 3 Arts Entertainment.

In addition to “Falconer,” Gotham-based Schindler, who has a first-look deal with Fox, also is developing, with Jan De Bont’s Blue Tulip banner, the thriller “Zero Hour,” which David Leland is rewriting. And Schindler is overseeing Anne Spielberg’s adaptation of “Otherwise Engaged” (originally titled “Old Maid”) from Suzanne Finnamore’s debut novel.

Timothy Bui, who wrote “Puff,” will make his directing debut on the pic. Tony Bui, who wrote, produced and directed “Seasons,” will produce together with Whitaker, who may appear in the pic as well.

Pic will be a co-production between the Buis’ banner and Whitaker’s Spirit Dance Prods. Financing and distribution for the project is being put together by WMA Independent’s Cassian Elwes.

“Puff” is described as an epic vision of the Vietnamese experience in the U.S. during the 1960s. As with “Seasons,” pic will be partly in Vietnamese and partly in English. Patrick Swayze may co-star in the film.

William Morris Agency reps the Bui brothers and Swayze.