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The “Spider-Man” team of Columbia Pictures and producer Laura Ziskin will try to spin the hit computer/vidgame Deus Ex into the studio’s next feature franchise.

Col production prexy Peter Schlessel has closed a rights deal with Eidos Interactive, the gaming company that hatched “Deus Ex” and “Tomb Raider,” among other game titles. Greg Pruss is set to write the script.

Like the Warren Spector-created game, the film will be set in 2052, with the world reeling from the effects of disease, economic collapse and global terrorism. The protagonist is J.C. Denton, a nano-tech enhanced counter-terrorist who’s the government’s most potent weapon.Ziskin and her exec Marc Evans brought the project to Col exec veep Matt Tolmach, who’ll oversee it with veep Rachel O’Connor. Eidos is producing a sequel to the PC and PlayStation2 game, and Col execs see the same potential for the bigscreen.

“With the brand awareness of the title and… we can develop Deus Ex as a potential franchise for the studio,” Schlessel said. “Our challenge is capturing all the story elements that have made this one of the most popular PC games, and delivering a film that has a distinctive look… and feel.”

The deal seems a likely movie for Columbia, whose “Spider-Man” grosses are fueled by a strong protagonist. Ziskin feels “Deus Ex” has similar appeal. “It’s an exciting world full of great bad guys and good guys with a movie star role in the character of Denton,” she said.

Pruss is best known for writing “Passengers,” a script David Fincher nearly made with producer Michael London. It concerns formless aliens that temporarily inhabit the bodies of humans and compel them to engage in wild and reckless behavior. Fincher has departed the Focus-based pic, but other helmers are circling.

HUNTER FEELS MATERNAL PULL OF THIRTEEN”: Holly Hunter has agreed to star in “Thirteen,” a drama that marks the directorial debut of production designer Catherine Hardwicke. When it starts production in July, “Thirteen” will also establish Nikki Reed as one of the youngest screenwriters in movie history, because the film is her story and the title was her age when she wrote the film with Hardwicke.

The pic’s produced by Michael London (“40 Days and 40 Nights”) and Jeffrey Levy-Hinte (“High Art”), and the script hardly reads like eighth-grade writing. In fact, Hunter was hooked by the script about a naive straight-A student who befriends a popular but damaged schoolmate who leads her down a course that includes sex, drugs, self mutilation, and borderline flunking. Hunter will play the girl’s mother, who is powerless to stop her daughter’s descent.

Hardwicke, production designer on films like “Vanilla Sky,” “Three Kings” and “SubUrbia,” has long been working toward her directing debut. She thought it would be on the action film she wrote called “Bulldog Dance,” which she describes as a female-themed “Deliverance.” Hardwicke hardly expected she’d be directing “Thirteen,” a project that began as her attempt to help a young family friend (Reed) turn her life around by replacing negative influences with positive ones.

“(Catherine) was moved by (Nikki’s) emotional distress,” London said. “Catherine started taking her to museums and theater and got her into creative writing to do something productive. Before they knew it, they had 100 pages, a beginning, middle and an end of the document that was this girl’s last 12 months.”

Hardwicke and the producers are casting young actresses to play the role of Nikki and her temptress friend. Reed, who just turned 14, is a candidate to play one of those roles. “She is a dynamic kid who was an overachiever when she was a good girl and overachieved when she was a bad girl,” Hardwicke said. “Holly connected to the struggle of her mother, who is spread thin emotionally and financially and suddenly has to deal with her kid dealing with drugs and slipping away from her.”

DIEHL DEAL: William Diehl, whose novels “Primal Fear” and “Sharky’s Machine” were made into feature films, has another in the works. As he pens the Ballantine novel “Seven Ways to Die,” Diehl is simultaneously penning the script with Emmy-winning scribe Michael A. Simpson, his collaborator on a USA Network series pilot called “Zombie Squad.” The title of the novel to be published next year is textbook coroner terminology about the number of ways to kill a human being, which figures in the misdeeds of a serial killer. “There is a strong erotic component to the novel tying the serial killer to the seven categories of death,” Simpson said. The pairing of novelist and scribe was arranged by management company AEI, which conveniently reps forensic pathologist Brett Bartlett and has aligned him as technical adviser. The film will be shopped to studios, and will be produced by Cairo/Simpson Ent. prexy Judy Cairo and AEI’s Ken Atchity and Chi-Li Wong.