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‘Indiana’ ignites

Scribe deal fires up 4th pic in Par's franchise

After more than a decade of silence, “Indiana Jones” will be cracking his famous bullwhip on the bigscreen once again.

Frank Darabont has been offered the job of writing the fourth installment of the “Indiana Jones” franchise and a deal is expected to be inked imminently. Paramount insiders say the pic will be aimed at a July 2005 holiday weekend berth.

The road to produce a “Jones” sequel has been long and twisting since the trio of producer George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and topliner Harrison Ford agreed to make a fourth pic (Daily Variety, Sept. 23, 1993).

Lucas previously courted “The Sixth Sense” writer M. Night Shyamalan and “Shakespeare in Love” co-writer Tom Stoppard to write the screenplay. Now Darabont is expected to take control and knock out a screenplay for a story that was hatched by Lucas and given a thumbs-up by both Spielberg and Ford.

Darabont has been Oscar-nommed twice for his writing — in 1995 for his adaptation of “The Shawshank Redemption” and in 2000 for “The Green Mile.”

While not the first, Darabont is likely the most qualified to do the job: Aside from a long association with Lucas and Spielberg, Darabont has experience with the Joneses. He wrote several episodes of the 1992-93 TV skein “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles,” as well as several editions of the Sean Patrick Flanery-toplined pics “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones.” In 1996, he penned the series “Young Indiana Jones Travels With Father” for Lucas with longtime Lucas collaborator Jonathan Hales, with whom Lucas wrote “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones.”

More recently, Spielberg and Darabont worked together on the screenplay for the upcoming Tom Cruise starrer “Minority Report,” and while Darabont’s work is uncredited, the two are understood to have expressed an interest in working together again more formally. The next “Jones” seemed a good fit.

Dating back to 1981, the Indiana Jones pictures have produced more than $1.2 billion in worldwide theatrical grosses.

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” raked in $432 million, while followups “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” harvested $348 million, and $418 million, respectively.

(Marc Graser contributed to this report.)