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Rock rolls Reiner into ‘Polar’ helm

NEW YORK — Castle Rock Entertainment and Playtone Co. have hired Malia Scotch Marmo (“Hook”) to adapt the Chris Van Allsburg children’s book “The Polar Express” as a directing vehicle for Rob Reiner. Tom Hanks plans to star in the film, producing with Playtone partner Gary Goetzman, along with Van Allsburg and his Golden Mean Prods. partner Bill Teitler.

CR and Playtone got in business on “Polar” in the wake of Castle Rock’s Hanks-starrer “The Green Mile,” which grossed more than $300 million worldwide.

CR Pictures president Martin Shafer made a seven-figure deal (Daily Variety, March 15) for Van Allsburg’s story of a boy who believes in Santa Claus, despite the skepticism of his friends. His faith is rewarded one Christmas Eve when he’s awakened by a steam train that takes him and other children to the North Pole to meet Santa.

Hanks is all aboard to play the train’s conductor. It’s on track to become the second Van Allsburg book adapted into a film following “Jumanji.”

The film would be the first time Reiner has directed Hanks, though the duo played best friends in “Sleepless in Seattle.” Since Hanks will be starring in the Sam Mendes-directed DreamWorks film “The Road to Perdition,” “Polar Express” won’t leave the station before next summer’s projected SAG/WGA strikes.

But it shapes up as a possible next directing project for Reiner, who will develop the script with Scotch Marmo, whose screen credits include “Madeline” and “Once Around.”

VIVICA PRESENCE FOR ‘BEHAVE’: Screen Gems has greenlit “How to Make Your Man Behave in Ten Days or Less,” a comedy scripted and to be directed by Mark Brown, the scribe whose credits include “How To Be a Player” and the MGM pic “Barber Shop.”

Vivica Fox is negotiating with Screen Gems exec veep Clint Culpepper to be the focal point of the comedy about a woman who uses her own set of rules to gain the upper hand over her philandering boyfriend. Pic starts production early next year, with Doug McHenry and Paddy Cullen producing, and Larry Kennar exec producing.

Screen Gems just completed another urban comedy, “The Brothers,” with a cast that includes D.L. Hughley, Morris Chestnut and Bill Bellamy. That pic gets release in February. Fox is repped by WMA and managed by Lita Richardson, Brown by Anonymous and attorney Adam Kaller.

TOP SALARIES NOT SUFFERING: Harrison Ford’s deal has closed on the Kathryn Bigelow-directed Cold War sub pic “K-19: The Widowmaker,” and he becomes the latest star to be elevated up to $25 million against 20% of the box office.

That figure’s believed to have been achieved by Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Travolta (though his membership in that club could be revoked if he continues this year’s cold streak). Bruce Willis just pacted for $22.5 million for five weeks of work in the MGM starrer “Hart’s War” (which makes one wonder how much he’d get for another “Die Hard” sequel). Martin Lawrence also is blowing past $20 million for “National Security” and “Blue Streak 2.”

The big question is how long it’ll take for the internationally bankable top guys to move to $30 million upfront, or whether the crop of actors right below them — the ones making $15 million — will move up to $20 million.

WOODS BOARDS ‘CARS’: Fresh from starring with Denzel Washington in the Nick Cassavetes-directed New Line drama “John Q,” James Woods has pacted to join the already filming “Riding in Cars With Boys,” the Penny Marshall-directed pic that stars Drew Barrymore, Lorraine Bracco, Adam Garcia and Steve Zahn.

Woods will play the father of Barrymore’s character, a girl who tries to overcome a dysfunctional childhood and attempts to raise an illegitimate child. Pic’s produced by James Brooks, Richard Sakai, Larry Mark and Sara Colleton. Woods is repped by ICM.

HBO WEDS ‘MARRIED’ CAST: HBO began production Monday on the pilot “The Mind of the Married Man.” The show stars Jake Weber (“The Cell”), Taylor Nichols (“The Last Days of Disco”) and Mike Binder, the latter of whom created the series with co-exec producer Stu Smiley.

They play a trio of reporters at a Chicago newspaper who try in vain to remain faithful, while M. Emmet Walsh (“Blood Simple”) plays their editor. “It’s the male rebuttal to ‘Sex and the City’s’ female point of view on relationships,” said Smiley, who’s exec producer of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and has been developing this show for several years with Binder. “It’s about love, marriage and monogamy and how, in every day life, those values are undermined.”

Binder’s exploration of such themes began with the indie pic “Sex Monster,” which he wrote, directed and starred in with Mariel Hemingway.

Smiley said traditional webs have tried to explore male relationships, but the uncensored HBO format exploited to such strong effect by other series makes this the perfect venue. “You couldn’t do this justice anywhere else,” said Smiley. “It’s just much closer to reality and more cinematic.”

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