Wahlberg a headbanger?; ‘X-Men’ gets man

NEW YORK — Mark Wahlberg is negotiating to star in the Warner Bros. film “Metal God,” a heavy-metal fantasy that will be produced under George Clooney and Robert Lawrence’s Maysville banner.

Wahlberg will play the lead singer of a bar band that replicates the tunes of a popular heavy-metal group, who gets to test his mettle when the real band dumps its poorly be-haved lead singer and taps the soundalike to replace him.

The film was scripted by John Stockwell, and grew out of a New York Times article about an actual office supply salesman who played in a cover band at night and was plucked from obscurity when the heavy-metal band Judas Priest dumped a member.

Wahlberg’s got the stage presence from his start as a rapper, when he was known as Marky Mark. That was before he transformed himself into an actor in films like “Boogie Nights,” “The Corrupter” and “The Basketball Diaries.”

WB and Clooney got hooked on Wahlberg after Clooney starred alongside him and Ice Cube in the Gulf War adventure “Three Kings,” which director David O. Russell directed. “Metal God,” which is being shepherded by WB execs Courtenay Valenti and Basil Iwanyk, was originally expected to star Brad Pitt, who has stepped out of his second hot music project, after curiously exiting the lead guitarist role in Cameron Crowe’s untitled new film for DreamWorks; that role went to Billy Crudup. Wahlberg is repped by Leverage Management and UTA.

SCOTT X’D FOR WOLVERINE: The big question of who will play Wolverine in the Fox event pic “X-Men” is about to be answered. Dish hears that Dougray Scott is at the top of director Bryan Singer’s list to play the lead role of the gruff superhero with the razorsharp claws who anchors the Marvel franchise. Scott’s the young actor who co-starred with Drew Barrymore as the prince in the Fox sleeper “Ever After” and got a featured role in the “Mission: Impossible” sequel.

The film’s directed by Bryan Singer, who originally coveted Russell Crowe for the part and afterward had a swarm of young actors vying for the role. If the deal comes through, Scott takes his place alongside Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart, with Fox and producer Lauren Shuler Donner continuing to cast the fast-tracked film.

‘MUMMY’ PUTS ‘BRIDE’ AT ALTAR: The success of “The Mummy” has had a defibrillator-like impact on the Universal remake of “The Bride of Frankenstein,” the revered 1935 James Whale classic that has been jump-started as a collaboration between Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Alphaville’s Jim Jacks and Sean Daniel, the latter of whom produced “The Mummy.”

The project has been languishing in development for several years, with Anne Rice scripting a gothic version and Kasi Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou”) penning a contemporary version. Taking a page from “The Mummy’s” pic, producers hope to get “The Bride” to an altared state with a new concept — setting it in the future.

“We’ll take the Bride into the near future, maybe 10 years from now, which lets us postulate our culture,” Grazer said, citing a strategy that worked well in movies like “The Crow” and “The Matrix.” “You can create a whole sensibility of the time, from fashion, design to music. … You have to care about the Bride, but she has to be a monster that has to be put back in the jar, someone with a lot of power and force.”

Grazer, who’s working on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!,” said “Bride” will tap Oscar-winning makeup expert Rick Baker, who’s working on getting the Grinch look down. “He’s a monster aficionado, and he’ll create the concept of what the Bride should be.” Toppers look to hire a writer/director soon.

BRADY TAKES A ‘PARTRIDGE’: Warner Bros. and Witt-Thomas Films has taken one step forward in their screen adaptation of the TV show “The Partridge Family,” and, at the risk of mixing sitcoms, here’s the story about a man named Brady. WB has signed director Jordan Brady, who’s made the festival circuit with his mockumentary “Dill Scallion” and will helm the HSI Entertainment-financed indie “The Third Wheel,” with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck skedded to play supporting roles.

Brady will work with scripter David Brendel to hone the story of the singing family in the psychedelic-colored school bus. Brady’s repped by Wm. Morris, Brendel by Endeavor and AMG.

KISSING THE BOOKS GOODBYE: Screenwriter Steve Barnes, who until recently was the floor manager of a Barnes & Noble bookstore in the San Francisco suburb of Alameda, has made his first script deal with Scott Frank and Jersey Films: “Telegraph Hill,” a period piece set in ’50s S.F. Frank, who has a producing deal with Jersey, will develop the pic with Barnes, who received low- against mid-six figures for the script.

Barnes has quit the bookstore job and gotten prolific; he’s close to setting up his second project, “Promise of Rain,” which he wrote with Ben Mouton and Ian Warwick, based on the Clay Reynolds novel “Agatite.” Sam Shepard is keen on starring, and the hope is to develop the script with him in mind. Another project, “Redheads,” he’s written as a directing vehicle for himself. Barnes was repped by the Original Artists team of Jordan Bayer and Matt Leipzig.

NICHOLS GETS CAST: Director Mike Nichols has completed his casting for the Columbia comedy “What Planet Are You From?,” signing Greg Kinnear, John Goodman, Ben Kingsley, Linda Fiorentino, Nora Dunn and newcomer Judy Greer to join Garry Shandling, Annette Bening, and Camryn Manheim in the comedy about an extraterrestrial (Shandling) with a mechanical penis sent to mate with a female earthling.

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