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Hudlin to service ‘Sarah’

NEW YORK — Mandalay Pictures has set Reginald Hudlin to direct Matthew Perry in “Servicing Sarah,” a comedy that will begin production in late November. The film is being produced by Dan Halsted, whose Halsted Pictures banner has a first-look deal at Mandalay.

Originally scripted by “Spin City” sitcom scribes Jay Scherick and David Ronn, “Servicing Sarah” went from a development project to a greenlit movie on the strength of a rewrite by Carol Leifer and Chuck Martin, who are former “Seinfeld” writer-producers.

Perry will play a process server trying to drop legal papers on an elusive female target. It’s a “Midnight Run”-type chase movie, only with a woman who becomes a love interest. Mandalay is now looking to cast the female lead.

For Perry, the film follows his role in the hit “The Whole Nine Yards,” and a renegotiation to continue his role in the NBC ensemble hit “Friends.”

Mandalay will put “Sarah” into production as it wraps the Frank Oz-directed “The Score” with Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Marlon Brando, and is about to begin production on “Press Your Luck” with Howard Franklin directing Bill Murray. Also in the Mandalay fold is the Jean Jacques Annaud-directed “Enemy at the Gates,” starring Jude Law and Joe Fiennes, and “Beyond Borders,” the Oliver Stone-directed film which stars Kevin Costner and Angelina Jolie.

Perry is repped by CAA and managed by Doug Chapin; Hudlin by Writers & Artists.

VAMPIRES TAP ANOTHER VEIN: A sequel to the bloodsucker saga “John Carpenter’s Vampires” is coagulating at Screen Gems, but in a more modest version than its original incarnation. The pic’s called “John Carpenter Presents Vampires: Los Muertos,” and Sandy King, who has produced seven Carpenter-directed pics including the still-shooting Screen Gems pic “Ghosts of Mars,” said the film will be done on a much smaller canvas than the original. King and Carpenter will exec produce the film, which was written and will be directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, a close Carpenter pal whose fright credits include “Halloween 3,” “The Howling 2” and the telepic adaptation of Stephen King’s novel “It.”

“We originally wanted to continue the original story into the next day,” she said. The film ended when vampire hunter James Woods and his priest counterpart (played by Tim Guinee) go after their former comrade (Daniel Baldwin) when he turns into a bloodsucker. “The studio wanted to go with a younger cast and a more modest budget,” King said. The only returnee will be Guinee, whom King calls the series equivalent to Van Helsing. “Father Adam will be our through line.”

King was just packing up the set of “Ghosts of Mars,” which shot mostly on 55 barren acres in a remote location outside Albuquerque, N.M. While that meant no chance of telephone poles visible on Mars, it brought about unexpected challenges. “It was not a shoot for sissies, because it is monsoon season and there is lightning all over the place,” she said. “After finding out that 28 people died from getting hit by lightning, we relied on a local weatherman named Larry Rice, who followed the lightning patterns and beeped us whenever a storm was headed our way. He was remarkably accurate.” They’d re-sked meal breaks around his reports. They return to L.A. to finish the film, which stars Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube and Jason Statham. Of Henstridge, who replaced Courtney Love as a Sigourney Weaver-like alien fighter, King said, “She can deliver a kick to the head, there’s not a bad angle on her and she’s been game all the way. John is very happy with her.”

REVING UP AGAIN: Determined to turn the Japanese animated series “Speed Racer” into a live-action film, Warner Bros. and producer Lauren Shuler-Donner have brought in Hype Williams, the writer-director of the Artisan drama “Belly” and a famed lenser of videos by the likes of Puff Daddy and Notorious B.I.G.

The studio has been waiting to wave the checkered flag for years, as “Speed Racer” almost made it into production with Julien Temple directing and Johnny Depp starring. It went back into the pits, emerging yet again with Alfonso Cuaron at the helm. The studio now hopes that Williams can get the saga of Speed and his mysterious brother Racer X onto the bigscreen once and for all. Williams is repped by Endeavor.

SUPERHERO SAGA FLIES TO FOX: Scott Lobdell, the “X-Men” comic writer-turned-screen scribe, has landed a three-year development deal at 20th TV on the strength of his comic-book creation “Ball and Chain,” a potential series involving a barely married couple whose superpowers are dependent upon them staying together.

Lobdell began talking up the comic as he and fellow “X-Men” alum Adam Polina set up the film “Generation Last” at USA Films. Originally published by the DC division of Homage Comics, the comic could form the basis of a series that’s essentially “Moonlighting” for the superhero set. She’s got the power to summon lightning, and he has the power to summon thunder, but they have to go together. That weather pattern essentially matches the volatility of their marriage, as they’re skedded for a divorce, though such a separation could have worldwide ramifications. Fox has put “Larry Sanders” vet Molly Newman with Howard Gordon (whose credits include “X-Files” and “Beauty and the Beast”) to try to turn it into an episodic vehicle for two young stars. At the same time, Lobdell also has the studio keen on his reality gameshow pitch “Ambush,” in which contestants will answer questions for big cash. While this sounds familiar, Lobdell has conjured up a twist: a host and a spokesmodel will show up with a camera crew at random places ranging from a supermarket line to a hospital ward to pepper unsuspecting contestants. Lobdell has a wealth of series ideas, ranging from “Tooth and Claw” (vampire law student uptight about her bloodsucking ways teams with a werewolf wildly happy with his supernatural powers to become bounty hunters) and “None of the Above,” a “Party of Five” meets “Terminator 2” about four kids transported back from the future to prevent the pending apocalypse.

Lobdell, who’s managed by Peter Donaldson of Envoy Ent., has just signed with Endeavor.

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