Col rolls new ‘SWAT’ team

Snyder to helm $40 mil big screen version of show

Hoping to mobilize a screen version of the ’70s TV series “SWAT” for an early 2001 start, Columbia Pictures has hired commercials director Zack Snyder and is negotiating with screenwriter Craig Fernandez to complete the shooting script for a film the studio hopes will be a youth-themed actioner.

The project, originally conceived as a big-budget vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger, has stagnated at the studio for years. The pic had gone as far as pre-production under commercials helmer Marcus Nispel at TriStar.

Budget, strike eyed

Columbia is understood to be revamping its take: It is hoping to make a high-octane action drama for a reasonable $40 million, (utilizing what is at present a deep pool of young, affordable actors). It is also aiming to have product in the pipeline in the event of expected Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild strikes in the spring and summer of 2001.

The “SWAT” revival comes after a flurry of recent production deal activity at Col, including negotiations to hire Dean Parisot to helm the comedy “The Scared Guys,” as well as greenlighting of the David Fincher-directed “The Panic Room” and the Sam Raimi-directed “Spider-Man.”

Hot team

While Snyder is making his feature directing debut, he has worked with some of the top movie stars in the business. He has directed Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro and Catherine Zeta-Jones in European commercials, and he has made flashy ads for Nike, Budweiser, Jeep and other major U.S. brands. Screenwriter Fernandez generated strong buzz with his script “El Phantasma.”

While Columbia might employ some elements of previous “SWAT” drafts written by Chris Morgan and the writing team of Ron Mita and Jim McClain, most of the pic will be a new take by Snyder and Fernandez.

The film is being produced by Oliver Stone, Chris Lee and Dan Halsted; Col exec VP of production Amy Baer and creative exec Shannon Gaulding are steering the project.

Snyder is repped by ICM’s Todd Feldman and Barbara Dreyfus, and managed by Michael Black of MBM. Fernandez is repped by the William Morris Agency.

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