‘Nautica’ back in swim

'24's' Hopkins to skipper thriller; Ledger also on board

“Nautica” has a new captain in Stephen Hopkins.

The director and producer behind Fox suspense drama “24” has been tapped by Escape Artists to replace original “Nautica” director Ted Demme, who died in January 2002.

At one point Peter Berg was slated to direct the pic, but he dropped out to helm “The Rundown.” Tarsem Singh was also previously attached.

Pic’s cast has also seen some rotations. Heath Ledger was at one point replaced by Ewan McGregor but is now reportedly back on board.

The character-driven thriller centers on three people yachting to the Bahamas who find themselves embroiled in skullduggery. The tale is told from the point of view of each character.

Escape Artists partners Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch and David Alper originally acquired the spec script in a mid-six-figure deal in 2001 from scribe Richard McBrien.

Will Davies is set to produce the pic with Escape Artists.

An independently financed film production company, Escape Artists has a first-look deal to distribute its pics domestically via Columbia Pictures and internationally via Summit Entertainment.

Sony has signed on as the pic’s domestic distributor, with co-prexy of production Matt Tolmach and production VP Rachel O’Connor overseeing the project.

The Emmy-nommed Hopkins, who’s repped by William Morris, began his career in graphic design and storyboarding before turning to directing. He first went behind the lens in 1987’s “Dangerous Game.”

Hopkins’ feature credits include the Gene Hackman/Morgan Freeman thriller “Under Suspicion,” the 1998 film version of “Lost in Space,” 1996 Michael Douglas/Val Kilmer vehicle “The Ghost and the Darkness” and 1994’s “Blown Away.”

He most recently co-directed the USA Network miniseries “Traffic,” which premieres Jan. 26, and is helming HBO Films project “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” starring Geoffrey Rush.

Last fall Hopkins signed a one-year deal with Twentieth Century Fox TV to develop and direct projects for the studio on an exclusive basis.

Upcoming projects for Escape Artists include “The Weather Man,” with Nicolas Cage, and the Diane Lane topliner “Need,” both in pre-production.

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