Col revs up for ‘RPM’

'Tomb' helmer West to direct car movie

In a deal worth $1.8 million against $3 million, Columbia Pictures has purchased “RPM,” a high-octane spec script by Joel Wyman.

Simon West, whose action credits include “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and “Con Air,” will direct the film next spring. Wyman will produce with John Baldecchi, with whom he last teamed on “The Mexican.”

“We set out to do the pre-eminent car movie, to set a benchmark, and we came up with an underground road rally wrapped around a heist,” Wyman said. The film will revolve around a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid-like pair of outlaws who are among racers tooling around in Maseratis, Aston-Martins, Lamborghinis and Ferraris. The underground race takes place in London, Monaco, Paris and Germany.

Baldecchi said the film will begin prepping in January, with expectations that production will begin when the Monte Carlo Grand Prix is run next May so footage can be included in the film. That gives Sony yet another big-ticket production start for next year, along with the likes of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” which will bow in summer 2004.

Wyman’s reps at Endeavor put the script on the road to studios early Tuesday. Within hours, Columbia Pictures, led by Amy Pascal, Peter Schlessel and Ange Gianetti, took “RPM” off the table with the big bid. Jason Hoffs is aboard to exec produce with Jib Polhemus.

The scribe bonded with West because they are exec producing the London-based “Keen Eddie,” a Fox series that is shooting 13 episodes and will begin airing in January with Mark Valley playing a Gotham detective who relocates to London. Wyman created the series, and West directed the pilot.

Wyman and Baldecchi have been shaping the vehicle that became “RPM” since they teamed on “The Mexican” at DreamWorks. Baldecchi since has aligned with Columbia, where he is readying “The Return of Castle Wolfenstein,” among other projects. He’s also producing “The Argonauts” at DreamWorks with Steve Sommers and “Treasure Island” with Walden Media.