DiCaprio plays ‘Catch’

Verbinski, Fincher up for helming position

HOLLYWOOD — Leonardo DiCaprio is in final negotiations to topline DreamWorks’ “Catch Me if You Can,” a new dramatic suspenser from scribe Jeff Nathanson (“Rush Hour”).

DiCaprio will make “Catch Me” his next picture after shooting Disney’s “Gangs of New York” for helmer Martin Scorsese, which begins lensing in Rome in August. Insiders familiar with the negotiations said that “Catch Me” would likely begin production by mid-March 2001 — just in time to avoid anticipated strikes by the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America that are likely to begin by June 30.

To that end, DreamWorks’ production toppers Walter and Laurie Parkes have taken the unusual step of personally serving as producers on the project, with DreamWorks theatrical production exec Glenn Williamson understood to be overseeing the project for the studio.

While Gore Verbinski (“Mouse Hunt” and the upcoming “The Mexican”) is the front-runner to helm the pic, David Fincher (“Seven” and “Fight Club”) is also a possibility, with talks continuing between DreamWorks and Fincher’s CAA reps.

“Catch Me” tells the incredible but true tale of Frank Abagnale Jr., a charming young impostor who from 1964 to 1966 successfully impersonated so many people and kited so many checks that he won the dubious distinction of being the only teenager ever placed on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list.

The young Abagnale passed himself off as a Pan Am co-pilot, and flew more than 2 million miles without paying a cent. But then, Abaganale often had good reason to make a speedy getaway: During that same time he had also pretended to be the chief resident pediatrician at a Georgia hospital, Louisiana’s assistant attorney general and a professor of American history at a French university. By the time he was apprehended, Abagnale had written $6 million in bad checks in all 50 states and in 26 foreign countries — all before his 18th birthday.

DiCaprio is managed by Artist Management Group co-founder and partner Rick Yorn, and by attorney Steve Warren at Hanson, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman & Warren. Nathanson is repped by United Talent Agency.

(Paul Duke contributed to this report.)