Wahlberg going ‘Apes’

'Storm' thesp to topline Burton-helmed pic

Mark Wahlberg has signed to take the lead role in 20th Century Fox’s “Planet of the Apes” in a two-picture deal that also includes a sequel.

Pic is scheduled to begin shooting in the fall under director Tim Burton. Fox plans a high-profile release in summer 2001.

Wahlberg’s path to serious talks with Fox was cleared earlier last week, when his negotiations to star in Paramount’s “Criminal Conversations” fell apart. He stars in Warner Bros.’ “The Perfect Storm,” opening Friday.

Burton’s last pic was “Sleepy Hollow.”

Written by Bill Broyles, the latest version of the “Apes” saga is being produced by Richard Zanuck. Pic is being overseen at Fox by Tom Rothman, president of 20th Century Fox Film Group, and Hutch Parker, prexy of production for the studio’s TCF label.

Story of the film is still a closely guarded secret, but it’s said to be neither a sequel nor a remake, but rather a reimagining of the original series of five “Apes” pictures released between 1968 and 1973.

Wahlberg is repped by Endeavor.

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