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‘Election’s’ Payne in talks for ‘Esquivel’

Leguizamo set to star, produce

Writer-director Alexander Payne, who most recently helmed the critically lauded comedy “Election,” is in talks with Fox Searchlight to helm the biopic “Esquivel.”

John Leguizamo is set to star as well as produce the pic, which was written by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman. David Bar Katz and Kathy DeMarco also are producing “Esquivel.”

Pic follows the life of Juan Garcia Esquivel, the ground-breaking Mexican musician whose prolific musical output during the ’60s typified the “Hi-Fi” sound of the day.

While “Esquivel” will not be the next film for Payne, the pic joins a growing list of projects Payne is developing as future outings.

Payne and Jim Taylor (“Election,” “Citizen Ruth”) currently are penning a rewrite of “About Schmidt” at Columbia Pictures. “Schmidt,” which is based on Louis Begley’s novel about a WASP attorney as he ventures into retirement and marries off his daughter, has been viewed as a starring vehicle for Jack Nicholson.

Payne, who is repped by Endeavor, also has been developing the adaptation of Paul Auster’s “The Locked Room” at Fine Line.

While “Schmidt” and “Locked Room” are on the front burners, after the critical praise Payne received for “Election,” the Nebraska native continues to field offers for his future directorial services. “Election,” the adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s satirical novel which was recently released by Paramount, followed Payne’s debut, the acclaimed satire “Citizen Ruth.”