×

As it readies the Robert Ludlum novel “The Bourne Identity” for a summer release, Universal has made a deal for the late author’s final book, “The Sigma Protocol,” a thriller that will be developed as a directing vehicle for “Training Day” helmer Antoine Fuqua.

Paul L. Sandberg will produce.

Novel follows the global exploits of a man who, while trying to avenge his brother’s murder, unearths a lethal international conspiracy. He is hunted by a tough female undercover agent who eventually warms to his cause and falls in love with him.

Fuqua got involved because he’s long been a fan of Ludlum’s fiction, with its trademark of global espionage and politics, and sparked to the idea of directing one.

Fuqua is thriving after moving from videos to features. Though genre films are generally ignored at Oscar time, “Training Day” got Oscar nominations for both Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke.

Willis in ‘War’ next

Fuqua will next direct Bruce Willis in the drama “Man of War” and is also developing “Bloods,” the Wallace Terry book about black soldiers in Vietnam, for Castle Rock, as well as the David Permut-produced “White Out” at Gaylord and Warner Bros., based on DEA agent Jerry Speziale’s undercover work that helped dismantle the Cali drug cartel in Colombia.

Sandberg, best known for producing the quirky Woody Allen-Sharon Stone starrer “Picking Up the Pieces,” got the rights from Ludlum’s estate because he helped the author pick up the pieces of a rights entanglement on his Bourne book series.

The author, who died last year, wanted to bring “Bourne Identity” to the screen through Universal, but there were rights issues because the character was used in a miniseries produced by Warner Bros., with Richard Chamberlain in the starring role.

The U film stars Matt Damon and Franka Potente, and Sandberg brought the book to the “Bourne” team of exec veep Allison Brecker-Shearmur and production prexy Scott Stuber.

The deal was brokered by ICM, in conjunction with literary agent Henry Morrison.