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Salerno tries on Jersey deal

Scribe goes 'Undercover' with Fox at the same time

NEW YORK — Screenwriter Shane Salerno, co-writer of such films as “Armageddon” and “Shaft,” has made a multiyear, seven-figure first-look deal with Jersey Films to hatch, rewrite and produce features.

At the same time, he’s made a two-year, seven-figure deal with 20th Century Fox TV that begins with the hourlong police drama “Undercover Blues,” a series he’s creating with novelist Don Winslow. The pilot will be directed by Thomas Carter; Salerno and Carter will exec produce with Winslow, whose novels include “The Death and Life of Bobby Z” and “California Fire and Life.” Series will focus on covert government operatives who tackle everything from terrorism to kidnappings.

The Jersey and Fox pacts are an outgrowth of “Celebrity,” a dramatic series that Salerno created for the producer and studio, with a pilot shot last fall for Fox Broadcasting.

Salerno bonded with Jersey partners Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher. That led DeVito to ask him to rewrite the Michael Petroni script “Revelation.” DeVito will direct the George Clooney starrer for Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures and Canton Co.

As part of the new deal, Salerno will rewrite for Jersey the Universal project “Vidocq Society,” a script by David Franzoni (“Gladiator”) about a secret society of elite sleuths who tackle seemingly unsolvable crimes.

In bringing Salerno’s Chasing Time Pictures into the fold, Jersey adds it to similar deals in place with Scott Frank, Richard LaGravenese and Scott Alexander, and Larry Karaszewski. Salerno has moved into Jersey headquarters and is assembling a staff.

At 27, Salerno is writing some of the highest-profile pics in town, all with A-list directors. He’s working on the Universal/Imagine historical drama “Bay of Pigs,” which Ron Howard plans to direct, with Brian Grazer and Todd Hallowell producing. He wrote the Sonny Liston biopic “Night Train,” which will start production in January at Paramount, with William Friedkin directing, Ving Rhames playing the fighter, and Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner producing.

Also, with “The Insider” director Michael Mann, Salerno has scripted a Touchstone-based project about the global drug war that Mann may direct after the Muhammad Ali biopic he’s about to begin with Will Smith. In addition, he wrote the WWII sub thriller “Thunder Below” for DreamWorks, with Phillip Noyce attached to direct.

Salerno got into the writing game by penning, producing and directing the docu “Sundown: The Future of Children and Drugs,” which he made while in high school.

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