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Wolper whipping up bio; Besson set for action

She was often photographed in kinky poses replete with whips and leather. She was even hauled before a Senate subcommittee investigating juvenile delinquency.

A mythic showbiz figure, Bettie Page may now reappear in a biopic produced by Mark Wolper for Warner Bros. following a hectic battle for life rights.

The producer, whose recent films include “L.A. Confidential,” “Murder in the First” and the recent TNT mini “The Mists of Avalon,” will work closely with Page documentarian Mark Mori on the film. Mori, who’s president of Single Spark Pictures, got the ball rolling on the feature when Page entrusted him with her life rights while he was working on her documentary. The film has sparked much interest in town, and once nearly came together as a Martin Scorsese film to star Liv Tyler as the pinup princess.

What’s the fuss about? The Page story is a blueprint for a sexy, nostalgic drama about a free-spirited woman who was a forerunner for the likes of Madonna and who paid a heavy price for it. Page shocked the populace in the late ’40s, and was brought before a Senate committee investigating juvenile delinquency. The charade was called a witchhunt orchestrated by a senator from her home state of Tennessee who was using her to further his White House ambitions. She became an unlikely poster girl for the First Amendment. The photographer she worked closely with was ruined by the Senate scrutiny, and Page retired. “I’ve been trying to get her rights for years,” said Wolper, who said that Tyler’s not attached, but is still interested, though numerous actresses could play Page.

“This goes back 10 years ago when my father, David Wolper, saw an article about her and said she’d make a great movie subject. I had no idea who she was. But she was at the forefront of a major shift in morality in the U.S., and she led a strange and salacious life. We want a very edgy film that tells it the way it was.”

Wolper will first look to secure a filmmaker to hone that vision, before they figure out who’s right to play the pinup queen. The rights deal was made by Innovative Artists.

LUC BESSON HAS CO-WRITTEN “The Transporter,” a dramatic vehicle for Jason Statham, the star of the Guy Ritchie films “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”

The drama, which will be produced and financed by Besson’s Paris-based Europa Corp., was written by Besson and his frequent collaborator Robert Kamen. It will mark the English-language directing debut of Corey Yuen, a veteran of 25 Hong Kong films who was the martial arts choreographer on “Kiss of the Dragon,” “Lethal Weapon 4,” “X-Men” and “Romeo Must Die.” Steve Chasman will produce.

While the plot is being held close to the vest, sources said Statham, who has been called a British version of Bruce Willis, will play a character whose job it is to deliver packages, no questions asked. Complications arise when he breaks the rules and begins asking questions.

The film will begin shooting in the South of France and Paris in October, with a $20 million budget.

Many of the principals in the film have been traveling in the same orbit for the past year, and “The Transporter” replicates the financial structure of the Jet Li/Bridget Fonda starrer “Kiss of the Dragon,” which was scripted by Besson and Kamen and was set up at Fox. Yuen is currently directing “Sunset Angels,” an Asian companion to “Charlie’s Angels,” for Sony Asia, and the Joel Silver-produced series pilot that Yuen directed, “Freedom,” made the UPN schedule. He’s best known for directing the Hong Kong films “My Father Is A Hero,” which starred Li, as well as “Bodyguard for Beijing” and “Fong Sai Yak.”

Statham will next be seen starring with Li in the Revolution drama “The One,” and with Ice Cube and Natasha Henstridge in the John Carpenter-directed “The Ghost of Mars.” Statham is repped by WMA and both Statham and Yuen are managed by Current Entertainment.

CAROLCO CONVERSION: If Friday’s premiere on the Paramount lot of “American Rhapsody” looks like a Carolco reunion, it’s because the film marked the first collaboration between Andy Vajna and Peter Hoffman since that indie’s heyday, even though this budget probably matched the catering tab on the Carolco films. Hoffman produced and Vajna exec produced the film Eva Gardos wrote and directed about a family that flees communist Hungary in the ’60s, only to discover that their daughter has been left behind. Six years later they reunite. Both Hoffman and Vajna said they couldn’t resist the script. “It reminded me of my own story, having left Hungary at age 12 by myself to come to the U.S., with my parents following me much later,” said Vajna. “I wanted Eva to have all the cooperation in Hungary that she needed.” On the blockbuster front, Vajna is pressing forward on “I Spy” and “Terminator 3,” the latter in partnership with Intermedia. “Jonathan Mostow was a great choice for the director and we’re finally getting close to getting going.”

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