Helmer Ridley Scott, who continues to align himself to epic-sized projects, has added a period Western to his list.

Twentieth Century Fox and Scott Free have made a preemptive high-six-figure deal for a pitch that will be written by Bruce C. McKenna. Scott’s had a long-standing desire to saddle up for a real Western. It is the first he’s ever attached himself to.

Scott has been moving from one big pic to the next since “Gladiator.” He’s made “Hannibal” and “Black Hawk Down” since and is now prepping the Nicolas Cage starrer “Matchstick Men” for a July 15 start. He then follows with the Russell Crowe starrer “Tripoli” in February. McKenna’s Western competes with an 11th century religious Crusades drama by “Tripoli” scribe William Monahan for Scott’s next assignment.

McKenna’s best known for writing multiple episodes of “Band of Brothers,” and he’s most recently adapted the Vietnam drama “Once Upon A Distant War” for producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the Arthur C. Clarke novel “Rendezvous with Rama” for director David Fincher and Revelations duo Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary.

C/W GOBBLES CHUNNEL TALE: Paramount-based partners Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner want to channel the Chunnel into a bigscreen drama. They’ve optioned the recent New York Times Magazine article “The Light At the End of the Chunnel,” and set its writer, Peter Landesman, to write the script. The article tells the story of how Middle Easterners illegally stow away for the speedy train’s trek betweeen Paris and London. The process is dangerous; remains of unsuccesful stowaways regularly litter the tracks.

It’s the third movie sale for journo Landesman, who’s writing the script right now in Rwanda as he works on an article for the mag about the mass rape, murder and mutilation perpetrated under the watch of a corrupt female government official and her son. “It’s the grimmest story I’ve ever done, worse than Kosovo or Afghanistan, and while it seems an odd juxtaposition writing this film while researching this article, I find that it is keeping me ground and sane,” Landesman said.

The Chunnel film will tell the story of a shady American refugee who changes his corrupt stripes and helps smuggle immigrants onto the train. “The Chunnel is deadly and thrilling because those trains are so lethal, but the subject matter also reflects post-911 political realities,” he said. “It has been a known pit stop for Al Qaeda, because refugee status offers perfect cover. There are a lot of timely issues, but behind it is a redemptive story.” Landesman also is making a deal to do a poltically charged drama at Intermedia with Oliver Stone and is working with Tribeca to set up his Atlantic Monthly article about the looting and murder mystery surrounding a treasure of gold and silver found in Hungary.

TWIN KILLING: Sibling scribes Aaron and Matthew Benay have pacted to script three pics for Miramax, the first of which calls for them to contemporize Louis L’Amour’s Cold War bestseller “Last of the Breed.” The novel is L’Amour’s biggest seller and it’s not a Western. It revolves around an Air Force pilot of Native American descent who’s shot down over Siberia and has to use survival instinct to elude armed captors chasing him across the frozen wilderness. The novel’s a passion project for Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein and is being steered by execs Christian McLaughlin and Colin Vaines, who made the deal with managers Dave Phillips and Peter Heller. The Benays originated the script “The Last Samurai,” which was the first project about the eradication of the Samurai in Japan, but unfortunately not the one Tom Cruise agreed to star in. That development might have downgraded the value of their script, but it has put them in line for big jobs like the L’Amour book. “I got a degree in Japanese studies at Duke and Stanford while Matthew went to film school at NYU, and we started out wanting to do a Japanese-themed project even though everybody said nobody would want to see one,” Aaron said.

POMERANCE EXITS: The changeover from USA Films to Focus will not include Ruth Pomerance, the longtime Gotham-based exec who has been at the studio for two years. The division’s now run by Hollywood-based Glenn Williamson, who is concentrating his creative staff in L.A. Pomerance, who has been a New York-based exec for about 20 years, isn’t leaving town, and will look to resurface by the fall. She ankles May 31.

CASTINGS: While Annette Bening is eyeing a “Freaky Friday” remake, Kevin Costner is hoping she will first join him in “Open Range,” the film he’s directing for Disney.