Peter Berg has made an overall producing and directing deal at Radar Pictures, and his first priority will be to revamp his directing vehicle “Truck 44.”
Berg scripted that drama about Gotham firefighters who inadvertently start a blaze while robbing a ritzy apartment building, a scenario that became too dicey after the events of Sept. 11. Berg, who had A-list actors circling when Fox 2000 decided to shelve the film, is rewriting the heist for Miami and said he’ll start production after he finishes another resurrected project, the Columbia drama “Nautica,” which had the late Ted Demme slated as director.
“We were locked and loaded on ‘Truck 44,’ but the idea of setting a catastrophic fire in Manhattan was too problematic and we just went in the basement and hid,” Berg said. “Setting a movie about a big fire (in New York) would have been very expensive but in Miami, it’s not so much of a problem. The six guys in the film could live anywhere.”
“Nautica,” about three friends whose yachting trip to the Bahamas goes awry, had Heath Ledger and Ewan McGregor set to star, until Demme died suddenly. Berg said Ledger (eyeing Alexander the Great in an epic to be directed by Oliver Stone) is out, but the director hopes to have McGregor and is confident he’ll make the drama as a tribute to Demme.
“Teddy was a good friend. I’d rather celebrate his spirit and memory by seeing this through.”
Berg’s allegiance to Radar chairman Ted Field and president Scott Kroopf goes back to his directing debut, “Very Bad Things.” Radar, buoyed by fast-mobilizing projects like the Ed Zwick-directed Tom Cruise starrer “The Last Samurai” and the Vin Diesel starrer “The Chronicles of Riddick,” wanted to keep Berg in the fold.
“I’m very research intensive in these projects,” Berg said. To do ‘Truck 44,’ I spent two years in Manhattan firehouses, and on this Coast Guard project which will be scripted by Andrew Miller, we’ll need to spend two and a half months with a Coast Guard station in Florida, sailing with them and seeing what they do, and let the story come from that. Radar was willing to creatively and financially support that.”
Berg is coming off writing, directing and producing the series “Wonderland.” He began his career acting in “Chicago Hope” and said he’s through with TV series for awhile, with the exception of ABC’s critically acclaimed espionage drama “Alias.” He’ll have a recurring role in the Jennifer Garner starrer, which is his favorite.
FINCHER A POSSIBLE? While Tom Cruise seems poised to next topline “The Last Samurai,” it appears the wheels are beginning to turn on the third installment of “Mission: Impossible,” which Cruise is producing with partner Paula Wagner at Paramount. He always intended to continue the franchise, going with a different, visually distinctive director in each. Nobody will confirm it, but Dish hears that he is hoping to draft David Fincher, who’s about to open his latest film, “The Panic Room.”
COL, U TAP BOOKS FOR FEMMES: “Bridget Jones’s Diary” has helped open the gates for femme-driven screen deals. Columbia Pictures has made a deal for the Tall Trees tandem of Betty Thomas and Jenno Topping to make a movie of India Knight’s novel “Don’t You Want Me,” and Universal and Tribeca snapped up screen rights to the Claire Berlinski novel “Loose Lips.” The Knight tale, brokered by CAA and AP Watt, is a cross between “Bridget Jones” and “Sex and the City,” in which a single mother in her late 30s reenters the dating market and tries to find love and sex. “Loose Lips,” meanwhile, is a comedy in the vein of “Private Benjamin” or “Legally Blonde,” where a young woman browsing the Internet comes across a CIA recruitment ad, and, before she knows it, becomes part of the training program and falls for a fellow trainee.
LITERARY GRAPPLING: Knopf has added to its author roster Mick Foley, who’s better known for his work in the squared circle than in literary circles. Foley, the 6-foot-4, 290 pound retired pro wrestler who used to be best known as Mankind, scored a bestseller for his autobiography, “Have A Nice Day,” as well as its sequel, “Foley is Good.” His managers at Braverman Bloom and Janklow-Nesbit’s Luke Janklow got a six-figure deal for Foley’s first novel titled “Tietam Brown.” The only wrestling in the book is of the emotional variety as a father comes to collect his son who has spent his first 14 years in an orphanage. “I’d never heard of Mick Foley,” senior editor-associate publisher Victoria Wilson said. “I never watch wrestling. Only an instinctive agent like Luke would have sent a first novel by a famous wrestler to Knopf. With no expectations I picked up the manuscript and was dazzled by the storytelling and the energy.”