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‘Zorro’ marks sequel

Campbell, Sony bond with first-look deal

Director Martin Campbell has made a first-look directing deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment that paves the way for a sequel to his hit film “The Mask of Zorro.” At the same time, Campbell is in final negotiations to first direct the New Line adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks bestseller “The Notebook.”

While a few deal points are still being worked out, Campbell expects to move directly to “The Notebook,” directing it immediately after the strike is either averted or settled.

The project is a stark contrast with his recent trio of hits “Goldeneye,” “The Mask of Zorro” and “Vertical Limit,” each of which grossed north of $200 million worldwide and made Campbell one of the most bankable helmers in town.

The Sparks novel, which was bought several years ago by New Line with producer Mark Johnson, tells the story of a man who makes daily visits to a woman in a nursing home to read her stories from a notebook. It becomes clear that she has Alzheimer’s Disease, and that he is reading their love story, which centers around a young woman and two men vying for her affections. It’s unclear which man she has chosen, though he’s obviously the one reading the tale.

The bestseller has been a magnet for A-list directors, with Steven Spielberg and James Sheridan nearly going forward. For Campbell, it is a welcome change from his logistically challenged recent efforts.

“I read the book and loved it four years ago, but Steven Spielberg was going to do with Tom Cruise, and I moved on,” said Campbell. “After finishing the recent films, I want to do a smaller character-driven piece, one that harkens back to my BBC roots. It’s a love story with very few characters involved and not an explosion in sight, which I find very appealing.”

Campbell and producer Johnson will be working on the script with screenwriter Jeremy Leven, who wrote the most recent draft. Campbell was brought onto the project by New Line production president Toby Emmerich and executive vice president Lynn Harris.

On the Sony side, Campbell’s first-look deal came out of a strong working relationship with chairman Amy Pascal, vice chairman Gareth Wigan and exec veep Amy Baer on “The Mask of Zorro” and “Vertical Limit.”

“I consider myself a gun for hire, really, but it’s nice to make a deal like this in the current climate of belt tightening, with a strike in the air,” Campbell said.

Campbell’s next directing effort for Columbia will likely be the “Zorro” sequel, now being scripted with Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, scripters of the original which grossed more than $250 million worldwide and launched Catherine Zeta-Jones. It is Campbell’s intention to bring her back along with Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins.

Campbell hopes to follow that by directing “Travel Agent,” a pre-existing Col project last scripted by Gregory Hansen. “It’s a time travel story, but unlike most of them, it’s not a gimmick where you’re taken to medieval times or the future,” Campbell said.

One project which Campbell won’t revisit is James Bond, even though the film he directed, “Goldeneye,” restored the luster of the flagging franchise, grossing over $350 million worldwide and cementing Pierce Brosnan as a viable 007. “It was great fun, but I just don’t know how many more control rooms I could blow up,” said Campbell.

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