Warners hot for ‘Infernal Affairs’

Pic has dramatic potential of cop pics like 'Heat'

Warner Bros. and producers Brad Grey and Brad Pitt have won a shootout for the right to remake “Infernal Affairs,” the Andrew Lau-directed actioner that was Hong Kong’s top-grossing film in 2002. WB beat out at least four other studios, paying $1.75 million.

Grey and Pitt will develop the film through the still-unnamed WB shingle in which they are partners along with Jennifer Aniston. Pitt may play one of two cops who become the central players in a web of deceit, duplicity and brotherhood as cops try to bring down a drug lord.

Made by Media Asia, “Infernal Affairs” was screened for studios early last week. Asian films have been selling like crazy for Hollywood remakes, and the “Infernal” premise was so promising that Daily Variety‘s review mentioned the high redo potential. DreamWorks placed a bid immediately, and other participants in the auction were Paramount, Miramax and Fox/New Regency.

WB’s Alan Horn and Jeff Robinov got behind the project and posted the winning bid late last week, sewing up a deal while other rivals readied counter-bids.

Studios reacted so quickly because the film has the kind of good guy-bad guy dramatic potential of such cop dramas as “Heat,” “Training Day” and the recently released “Narc.”

Story concerns a police captain who tries to weed out a bad cop in his department who’s working for a drug lord. Meanwhile the crime boss tries to figure out whether there’s a traitor in his midst who’s informing for the police.

The studio and producers will look to enlist a filmmaker right away to fast-track the film.

Original pic, which was released in December, continues to be a sensation. Having taken in more than $6 million, it is already the second highest-grossing film in Hong Kong after “Shaolin Soccer.” It will unspool at the Berlin Film Festival.