Hot helmer Gray warms to ‘Be Cool’

Travolta reprises 'Get Shorty' role after 'Punisher' duties

“The Italian Job” helmer F. Gary Gray is in discussions to direct “Be Cool,” for MGM and Jersey Films as his next job.

The studio is eyeing a November start on the Peter Steinfeld-scripted adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel, which will star John Travolta. Story places the “Get Shorty” character, loan shark-turned-film producer Chili Palmer, into the music biz. He finds corruption and danger when he promotes a struggling singer and runs afoul of the Russian Mafia.

The studio had courted Brett Ratner to direct the pic but Ratner owed his next film to New Line and committed to “After the Sunset.” Travolta just gave his blessing to Gray, whose pics “The Negotiator” and “Set It Off” showed wit along with the obligatory drama.

MGM’s Elizabeth Cantillon is overseeing the pic, which will be produced by Danny DeVito and his former Jersey Films partners, Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher. Leonard and Michael Siegel are exec producing.

Travolta will next play Thomas Jane’s adversary in Artisan’s “The Punisher.” Director Jonathan Hensleigh begins shooting in September. Then he’ll be ready for “Be Cool.”