New buzz for ‘Hornet’ after U option expires

Miramax picks up pic in deal approaching $3 mil

Another challenge for the Green Hornet?

After nearly a decade in development at Universal Pictures, the iconic crime-fighter has been abandoned by the studio. Acting quickly to best a bid from Paramount (Sony’s Columbia also showed interest), Miramax Films has scooped up the option and license fees for “Hornet” in a deal approaching $3 million.

That’s a bargain compared to what U has spent on development — close to $10 million since 1992. While it controlled the property, U courted George Clooney and Jet Li for the roles of the Hornet and Kato, parts famously portrayed by Van Williams and Bruce Lee in the 1966 Alphabet web skein.

Even Oscar-winning “The Usual Suspects” scribe Christopher McQuarrie was hired to pen a recent draft. But it was not ready in time for Li to star as Kato last year, and Li ultimately opted to topline Revolution’s recent actioner “The One.”

Neither Li nor any previous producers are still attached to the project (producers associated with “Green Hornet” while it was at U included Larry Gordon, Charles Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Michael Richardson and Tom Craig).

Retaining participation

For all its trouble, U will retain the option to co-finance the pic with Miramax at the discretion of Universal brass — should pic ever progress to lensing.

The surviving son of “Hornet” co-creator George Trendle — also named George — controls the rights to the character and will exec produce. He was repped in the deal by veteran Hollywood attorney Harold Berkowitz, who also will exec produce, and by Loeb & Loeb.

Dimension Films’ senior exec veepee of business affairs Michael Helfant negotiated for the studio with senior veepee Andrew Gumpert. Pic’s new phase of development will be overseen by Miramax creative affairs veep Louis Anderman and production co-prexys Meryl Poster and Robert Osher.

A Miramax spokeswoman declined to comment.

Dual identity

Pursued by police as a wanted criminal, the masked vigilante Green Hornet is actually Britt Reid, owner and publisher of muckraking journal the Daily Sentinel. Reid’s dual identity is known only to his secretary and the city district attorney. The Hornet spends his off hours thwarting criminals with his Black Beauty, a souped-up crime-fighting vehicle (it looked suspiciously like a 1966 Chrysler Imperial in ABC’s skein) and guns that fire non-lethal knockout gas and steel-piercing stingers.

The Green Hornet started in 1936 as a radio drama created by Fran Striker and Trendle. Along the way, the Hornet spawned numerous movie serials, a TV show and, of course, the long-running, multigenerational comicbook franchise that has been sporadically republished and reinvented. The last “Green Hornet” comic rolled off the pulp presses in the early 1990s, published by NOW Comics.