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Arnold back for ‘Westworld,’ ‘Conan’ redos

Franky G. gains 'Confidence'; Sanger teams with Elbert

Already the centerpiece of the Warner Bros.-distributed “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” Arnold Schwarzenegger has committed to two more returning franchises at WB.

He has signed on to star in and produce the remake of the Michael Crichton sci-fi action thriller “Westworld,” while solidifying plans to reprise his role in the new “Conan the Barbarian” film currently being written by John Milius. The studio is also planning to develop other projects for Schwarzenegger, who recently starred in the WB drama “Collateral Damage.”

Schwarzenegger is poised to reprise the Yul Brynner in “Westworld” of a robotic Old West gunman programmed to be slain by wannabe gunslinger tourists in a fantasy vacation. When the robot’s circuits go awry, he becomes a real killing machine and hunts the visitors. The project’s gone to the fasttrack and WB is developing it fresh, specifically for Schwarzenegger, the star and WB president of worldwide production Lorenzo di Bonaventura confirmed.

“I am very excited to be working on ‘Westworld,’ ” Schwarzenegger said. “I loved the original film when I saw it in 1973 and have wanted to remake it for several years. After following the project for some time, I am really thrilled it has finally come together at Warner Bros.”

Di Bonaventura called the deals with Schwarzenegger a “great credit to the studio. We couldn’t be happier to present Arnold in the highly anticipated Terminator franchise, immediately followed by the remake of ‘Westworld.’ ” Schwarzenegger has also sparked to reprising his Conan role in the new pic that reteams him with Milius, who wrote the 1982 original with Oliver Stone. The rights came to WB in a deal put together by producers Jon Jashni, Irving Azoff and Richard Alexander with Stan Lee Media, which controlled the rights to the Robert E. Howard-created character. Lee is exec producing the pic, which will involve pairing Schwarzenegger with a younger swordsman.

WB signed on for domestic distribution rights to “T3,” the C2/Intermedia pic that is being directed by Jonathan Mostow. The WMA-repped Schwarzenegger has whipped himself into cyborg shape, with production about to begin in Los Angeles.

“CONFIDENCE” IN FRANKY: Franky G., the well-muscled young star of the Eric Eason-directed “Manito,” which won the Sundance award for Best Ensemble, has landed a lead opposite Ed Burns in “Confidence,” the James Foley-directed Lions Gate drama. Burns plays a con artist whose scamming puts him in debt to the mob, and Franky G. plays a mob enforcer who’s assigned to shadow the con crew. AMG signed the thesp off Sundance, and have him in negotiations for a pair of follow-up pics. Not bad for a guy who, after tearing up a knee playing college football, was making a living as a bouncer and security guard. He was headed for an engineering job until he got an audition for “Manito.”

ILLUSIONS STARTS WITH NADELSON: Jonathan Sanger, who spent the last six years working for C/W Productions where he exec produced “Vanilla Sky” and “Without Limits,” has left the employ of Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner to partner with Ed Elbert in Grand Illusions, a production shingle which has made its first book acquisition. They’ve made a deal for a series of mysteries written by Reggie Nadelson, which include “Red Mercury Blues,” “Sex Dolls” and “Bloody London,” all revolving around the Russian-born Gotham-based private investigator Artie Cohen. “(Reggie)has created a great character, this naturalized Russian former police officer who allows for strong contemporary stories, like ‘Red Mercury Blues,’ which deals with the breakup of the Soviet Union and the availability of nuclear materials that can get into the hands of terrorist groups,” Sanger said. Sanger’s varied background includes producing the 1980 best picture Oscar winner “The Elephant Man” to directing such small-screen fare as NBC’s “Code Name: Emerald” with Ed Harris. Elbert has an equally diverse background. He’s a former marketing and distribution wiz who once partnered in a company which spun-off breakthrough fuel cell technology from NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory into the private sector, as well as assisting in several hi-tech startups. His producing credits include “Anna and the King” and the Denzel Washington starrer “The Mighty Quinn.” Elbert and Sanger first joined forces producing the Imax film “‘N Sync: Bigger Than Live.” Sanger, who’s continuing to stay involved with such C/W projects as the Intermedia drama “Suspect Zero,” which was recently rewritten by Billy Ray for “Shadow of the Vampire” director Elias Merhige, he and Elbert expect to be very active in the material market to ramp up their slate.

BALLWEG BITES INTO “TORTILLA”: Scott Steindorff’s Stone Village Productions has hired tyro scribe Dayan Ballweg to adapt T.C. Boyle’s “Tortilla Curtain” for a fasttracked pic to be directed by Richard Pearce. The pic’s a tragicomedy covering Mexican illegal aliens and a liberal Malibu couple, brought together by a car accident. Ballweg wrote “Young Americans,” a script which was named finalist for the AMPAS Nicholl Fellowship, now being made by Samuelson Productions and Gold Circle Films with director Andy Hurst. “Dayan has developed an interesting take, with a comic twist that will excite a lot of people,” Steindorff said. “Dayan is a young bright writer who will rise to the top.” Steindorff’s hoping to get the pic in production this year.

FAST TIMELINE: Since stepping off the British stage and into movies, Michael Sheen has been busy. He’s landed a lead opposite Frances O’Connor and Paul Walker in the Richard Donner-directed “Timeline” for Paramount. This follows his starring in the Damien O’Donnell-directed “Heartlands,” a pic that Miramax greenlit off dailies of Sheen’s first American film, the Shekhar Kapur-directed “Four Feathers.” WMA and Melanie Greene Mgmt. rep him.

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