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‘X’ marks spinoff spot

Benioff pitches, scores scripting deal for mutant pic

Twentieth Century Fox and “Troy” scribe David Benioff are sinking their claws into the “X-Men” comicbook franchise.

In a seven-figure deal, Benioff has been hired to pen “Wolverine,” a spinoff focusing on the signature character from the studio’s lucrative “X-Men” series.

Benioff will write with the expectation that a deal will be made for Hugh Jackman to reprise his role as the talon-clawed superhero.

Benioff pitched a take on the material to 20th Century Fox prexy Hutch Parker and senior veep Alex Young, who’ll steer the film. The film will likely be produced by the “X-Men” tandem of Lauren Shuler Donner and Marvel Studios head Avi Arad, though those negotiations also haven’t been completed.

Of all the characters in the “X-Men” universe, Wolverine is the most popular mutant and presents the most intriguing plotline possibilities. One of the original film’s surprises was the revelation that Wolverine’s special power wasn’t his retractable steel claws but rather his ability to heal any injuries in seconds.

Flashbacks showed he was used in a medical experiment in which his skeleton was painfully changed to indestructible steel. The question of who tortured him wasn’t solved and wasn’t addressed in the sequel.

Benioff seems an unusual choice for the project, but he is a fan of the comicbook. His script “Stay” was turned into a Marc Forster-directed drama that New Regency and Fox will distribute this fall, and the WMA-repped scribe has been busy adapting books into plum projects.

After recently completing an adaptation of the George Pelecanos novel “Right as Rain” for director Curtis Hanson at Warner Bros., Benioff is adapting Khaled Hosseini novel “The Kite Runner” for director Sam Mendes at DreamWorks as well as Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” at WB.

Twentieth Century Fox will press forward with “Wolverine” development while simultaneously prepping its third installment of “X-Men.” That film is just getting back on track after Bryan Singer left to do “Superman.” Fox set Simon Kinberg to write a draft, though the studio hasn’t yet named a replacement director.

The first two “X-Men” pics had a collective worldwide gross of more than $700 million.

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