Mann plans killer Cruise

Project brings thesp, helmer together for first time

Michael Mann will next direct the DreamWorks drama “Collateral,” and he has Tom Cruise in his crosshairs to play the lead role of a contract killer.

Written by Stuart Beattie, with a rewrite by Frank Darabont, the script takes place on a single night. After a cabbie picks up a passenger, he and his car are taken hostage as a killer travels around Los Angeles to conduct his business. Mann has mined the visuals of L.A. streets for “Heat” and the TV series “Robbery Homicide Division.”

Mann last directed “Ali,” and he and Cruise have been trying to find a film in which they could work together. (Both are repped by CAA.) Filming will start in October.

Cruise doesn’t have a deal yet, though one is expected. The actor has long expressed a desire to play a villain, and he may get his chance with the charismatic yet lethal passenger.

Cruise is coming off the Ed Zwick-directed “The Last Samurai” and will work in “Collateral” before starring in and producing “Mission: Impossible 3,” to be directed by “Narc” helmer Joe Carnahan.

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