Ants pic is a picnic for Par

Hensleigh takes on contemporized 'Jungle' redo

Paramount Pictures has set Jonathan Hensleigh to write and direct a remake of “The Naked Jungle,” a 1954 pic that starred Charlton Heston as a South American plantation owner who battles a colony of oversized marching ants.

Par-based Alphaville partners Jim Jacks and Sean Daniel will produce.

Hensleigh wrote “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” “Armageddon” and “Jumanji” and made his directing debut on “The Punisher.”

“When you watch (‘The Naked Jungle’) now it feels dated,” he said. “But the ability to use CGI effects to show the ferocity of this super colony of ants gives a new dimension to the project.”

Pic is based on the Carl Stephenson short story “Leiningen Versus the Ants,” which was turned into a radio play before being made into the film. Original was set in 1901, when a mail-order bride shows up to wed the plantation owner just as the ant swarm mobilizes.

Hensleigh said the redo will be contemporized and set in a South American rain forest, and he will whip up a jungle romance between the plantation owner and a woman who is an emissary for a corporation looking to buy the plantation.

Par exec VP Brian Witten is steering the project, and it is following a fast track: Though his deal closed Tuesday, Hensleigh said he was so excited that he began writing weeks ago and will have a first draft before the end of the month.

Project came together after Hensleigh sought out Par prexy Donald De Line, the former Touchstone topper for whom he worked on “The Rock” and “Armageddon.” De Line plugged Hensleigh into the Alphaville partners, who’d begun developing the remake on their own. They liked Hensleigh’s first directing effort and his enthusiasm.

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