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MGM and Bullock team for ‘Wildest Dreams’

MGM and Sandra Bullock have teamed on the spec script “Wildest Dreams,” a “Ghost”-like love story about a woman who gets through the death of her husband with the help of supernatural elements. Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk’s script, a high-six-figure outright purchase, comes with Bullock’s Fortis Films attached to produce.

The MGM deal follows the spirited auction of Marc Levy’s ghost romance novel “If Only It Were True” to Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks for $2 million, and a $10 million deal by Disney for “Sixth Sense” writer-helmer M. Night Shyamalan to follow up with “Unbreakable,” another drama with supernatural elements. Pic will star Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson.

In “Wildest Dreams,” Bullock hopes to star as a woman whose new husband dies in an accident. Two years later, she’s emotionally closed off, until a series of dreams show her a mysterious man who can help her rise above her grief.

The deal was made by MGM prexy Michael Nathanson and exec veep Alex Gartner. The studio moved aggressively because it wanted a Bullock picture. The writers were agented by Jordan Bayer and Matt Leipzig of Original Artists and managed by Jeffrey Graup and Alex Goldstone; Graup will exec produce. Bullock’s repped by CAA.

TWO MORE ANGELS: While Columbia hopes Lucy Liu can free herself from “Ally McBeal” to join Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz in “Charlie’s Angels,” the studio has enlisted Betty Thomas and Jenno Topping to join the film’s producing roster of Barrymore, Nancy Juvonen and Leonard Goldberg. Thomas and Topping bring seasoned producing hands to Col’s big summer 2000 pic, and just finished the Thomas-directed Sandra Bullock starrer “28 Days,” which Col opens early next year. Production’s set to start next month, so the Liu negotiation must wrap up quickly or the studio will have to move on.

JACK BE NIMBLE, PAUL BE QUICK: In an attempt to get Harrison Ford back in the role of Jack Ryan by early next year, Paramount and producer Mace Neufeld have hired “Donnie Brasco” scribe Paul Attanasio to rewrite Akiva Goldsman’s script of “The Sum of All Fears.” Par has been working with Ford for some time on a new sequel, and wanted to hone the script. Par first offered the rewrite to Steve Zaillian, who did production polishes on “Clear and Present Danger” and “Patriot Games.” When he was unavailable, Par gave the job to Attanasio, who did the production polish on “Air Force One.”

Ford wraps “What Lies Beneath” for Robert Zemeckis in December, and after a rare misfire with “Random Hearts,” he could do worse than return to one of his signature roles. The other alternative, Indiana Jones, is at least two years off. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Ford agreed to do another pic years ago providing all agree on concept and script. While Lucas has a script he likes, the other two aren’t sold; besides, Lucas and Spielberg are booked solid with directing jobs. Another positive sign for a Ryan resurrection is the fact that Phillip Noyce, who directed the last two pics and wants to return, got big opening weekend numbers for “The Bone Collector.”

BATES ABOARD ‘MOONS’: Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates, who got an Emmy nom for directing “Dash and Lilly” for A&E, is moving up to features. One possibility is “The Moons of Jupiter,” a John Rieck script, likened to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” about a boy who invokes a miracle to save his family.

The project’s financed by Legend Films, with Tom Berry producing and Aaron Meyerson exec producing with Armand Speca and Kevin Moreton. New Line and Speca originated the pic while Meyerson and Moreton were execs at the studio, and the trio teamed after the project hit turnaround. A spokeswoman for Bates confirmed she’s aboard to direct, but said she’ll likely make her feature debut on another project first. Bates will supervise a script polish from Rieck, who penned the Disney Channel pic “Genius,” which Meyerson produced.

‘HIGHLANDER’ GETS REPRIEVE: “Highlander” fans who thought they’d seen Adrian Paul behead his last immortal have one reason to greet the new year. After toplining the series for six years, Paul has headed to Romania and begun production on “Highlander: Endgame,” a Dimension Films feature. Paul said the film took several years to shape, partly to ensure it reflected the quality of the series rather than the sequels.

“We were very careful during the series regarding the progression of the character, the kind of story arcs that worked best, and the same kind of care was taken here,” said Paul, who’ll duet in the pic with original “Highlander” Christopher Lambert, but will largely carry the pic himself. The script was written by Joel Soisson from a story by Donna Horowitz and Bill Panzer; Doug Aarnoikoski is making his feature directing debut after doing second unit for a slew of Dimension pics, from “Texas Rangers” to “The Faculty.”

Paul did much of his own martial arts and sword work playing the immortal Duncan McCloud in the series, and trained assiduously to prep for the film. “The last month and a half, it’s been six to nine hours of martial arts and sword training a day, and learning different weapons,” he said. “Instead of just having immortals battle with two swords, we thought it would be more interesting to have them use styles and weapons from different cultures around the world.”

Paul has an option for a second “Highlander” pic, but moved to L.A. from Europe hoping to branch into studio fare. One possible next effort is “The Ambassador,” which Paul wrote with “48 HRS.” scribe Larry Gross. It’s a futuristic piece reminiscent of “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Paul’s repped by Nevin Dolcefino and Graham Kaye at Innovative Artists and managed by Dave Fleming of Baumgarten Prophet Entertainment.

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