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New heat for ‘Zone’

Fox fast-tracks virus pic with 'Deep' duo

Moving long-stalled “The Hot Zone” toward the fast track, 20th Century Fox has attached “The Deep End” filmmaking team of Scott McGehee and David Siegel to co-direct the viral thriller.

Fox senior VP Michael Andreen recruited the duo, who are aiming for a winter production start, following completion of a draft penned by prolific writer Erik Jendresen (“Band of Brothers,” “The 300 Spartans”).

McGehee said the script closely follows Richard Preston’s bestseller, based on the real-life story of an Army SWAT team containing a killer virus that wiped out the primate population at a Virginia research lab in 1989.

“It’s a great script, very similar to the original story,” he added.

Andreen will oversee the project for TCF production prexy Hutch Parker, with Lynda Obst producing.

Fox originally acquired rights to “The Hot Zone” in 1993 and set it up for Obst with director Ridley Scott, Jodie Foster and Robert Redford.

But, following a well-documented series of setbacks, the pic, then titled “Crisis in the Hot Zone,” was shut down in pre-production in 1994 after Foster and Redford bowed out while producer Arnold Kopelson was mounting fictional virus thriller “Outbreak” for Warner Bros.

McGehee and Siegel, repped by ICM and attorney John Sloss, gained notice last year after producing, writing and directing critical fave “The Deep End” for Fox Searchlight.

They also exec produced “The Business of Strangers” for IFC, produced “Lush” for their I5 Films shingle and wrote, produced and directed “Suture” for Goldwyn.

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