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NEW YORK — Jim Carrey next will star in an untitled comedy for Universal and Jersey Films that was written and will be directed by Gary Ross (“Pleasantville”).

Pic will begin production in March and will be released for Christmas 2002. It will be set in New York, where it will be partially shot.

Carrey, who has been a good-luck charm for Universal with the Imagine-produced films such as “Liar Liar” and “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” has been intrigued for months with Ross’ first original script since “Pleasantville,” and chose it over several other contenders early this week.

In the pic, he will play a widower whose wife returns to haunt him when he falls for a much younger woman. Her posthumous reappearance forces him to confront the “ghosts” in their relationship. The film is a co-production between Jersey Films and Ross’ Larger Than Life Prods.

Changing tracks

Ross had been expected to next direct a Charlie Mitchell-scripted adaptation of “Seabiscuit,” Laura Hillenbrand’s nonfiction bestseller about the rags-to-riches rise of the Depression-era racehorse. He’ll now saddle up “Seabiscuit” right after the Carrey pic.

“It’s a rich, lush romantic comedy about renewal and rebirth, and setting it in New York and getting to shoot it there was important to us, for obvious reasons,” said Ross. “I don’t usually write projects for specific actors, but now that we’ve gotten close with Jim, I can honestly say I couldn’t imagine anybody else for the part. He’s as brilliant a comedian as he is a gifted actor. This comedy is tonally similar to other films I’ve written, and the hope is to be both funny and poignant. Jim’s depth makes all that possible.”

He’s their ‘Man’

Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher, who partner with Danny DeVito in Jersey Films, were eager to get back in business with Carrey, who starred in the Jersey-produced “Man on the Moon.”

“Gary’s written a comedy with all the great stuff he brought to ‘Big,’ ‘Dave’ and ‘Pleasantville,’ and it will take full advantage of Jim’s talent,” said Shamberg. “The three of us couldn’t be more excited.”

Carrey, who’ll next be seen in the Frank Darabont-directed Castle Rock film “Majestic,” is repped by UTA and Gold-Miller.