Wahlberg circles ‘Criminal’

'Ocean's Eleven' also on deck

HOLLYWOOD — Mark Wahlberg is in negotiations to star in “Criminal Conversation,” as a young mob boss who falls in love with the wife of the D.A. trying to bring him down. The Paramount drama will be directed by Iain Softley and produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner’s CW Productions.

At the same time, Wahlberg has enlisted to join George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, among others, in the Steven Soderbergh-directed “Ocean’s Eleven,” a remake of the Rat Pat pic about a casino theft. WB and Village Roadshow Pictures are partnering on that pic, which is being produced by Jerry Weintraub and scripted by Stephen W. Carpenter and Ted Griffin.

Wahlberg, who stars with Clooney in the Wolfgang Petersen-directed “The Perfect Storm” which Warner Bros. opens June 30 , has been wooed for many projects with fall start dates, including “The Green Hornet.”

He last week began zeroing in on “Conversation,” an adaptation of the 1994 Evan Hunter novel which was originally acquired by Par and CW with the expectation that Nicole Kidman would play the lead female role and Cruise would co-star. More recently, Meg Ryan’s name also surfaced as a possible candidate to star.

Wahlberg would play a gangster who has assumed control of the family business after his father is put away by a dogged lawyer in the district attorney’s office.

Wahlberg’s deal is still being negotiated. He spent Sunday meeting with Softley, the director best known for helming “The Wings of the Dove.” The project is expected to be in production this fall.

Aside from “The Perfect Storm,” Wahlberg stars with Joaquin Phoenix in the Miramax-distributed “The Yards” in September, and recently wrapped the Stephen Herek-directed “Metal God” for Warner Bros. and Bel Air.

Hunter also writes the 87th Precinct policeman series under the name Ed McBain.

Wahlberg is repped by Endeavor, Leverage Management and attorney Jason Sloane.

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