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USA Films doubles back into ‘Traffic’

Production to begin this Spring

After weeks of stops and starts, Steven Soderbergh’s “Traffic,” starring Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, is set to move forward at domestic distrib USA Films, with Initial Entertainment Group handling foreign sales. Production is slated to begin this spring.

USA originally lined up to distribute “Traffic” after Fox put the drama in turnaround late last year. But the project reverted back to TCF under a change of elements clause when Harrison Ford became attached to play the role of state judge turned drug czar Robert Lewis.

TCF division Fox Searchlight initially committed to handle the drama, but after Ford dropped out and the budget continued to rise to $50 million-$60 million, Searchlight stepped aside and USA Films stepped in.

Based on the 1989 BBC miniseries “Traffik,” “Traffic” follows the U.S. drug wars. Douglas will portray the judge turned drug czar, while fiancee Catherine Zeta-Jones is set for the role of pampered mother turned drug smuggler Helena Montoya.

Erika Christensen, star of last season’s short-lived CBS sitcom “Thanks,” has nabbed the plum part of Robert Lewis’ drug-addicted teenage daughter, Caroline, while Topher Grace (“That ’70s Show”) will portray Seth Abrams, the hard-core weekend substance abuser who draws her into his world of drugs and danger.

Negotiations are ongoing for both actors, as well as for cast members Don Cheadle and Benecio Del Toro.

Producing “Traffic” are Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz and Laura Bickford. Rick Solomon, Mike Newell, Cameron Jones of Fifty Cannon and IEG’s Graham King and Andreas Klein are exec producing. Stephen Gaghan adapted the screenplay.

“Traffic” signals USA Films’ interest in bigger-budgeted star-driven titles in addition to smaller arthouse fare. Upcoming releases for USA include Stanley Tucci’s “Joe Gould’s Secret” and “Waking the Dead,” directed by Keith Gordon.

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