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Fox pages Turner to pen Magneto spinoff pic

Move follows similar 'Wolverine' deal

Twentieth Century Fox has set Sheldon Turner to draft “Magneto,” an action-thriller based on the villainous character played in the first two “X-Men” films by Ian McKellen.

Project reps the second extension of the studio’s “X-Men” comicbook franchise. Move follows a Fox deal with “Troy” scribe David Benioff to write “Wolverine,” a pic about the gruff mutant with the steel claws, played in the films by Hugh Jackman.

Turner recently scripted the Adam Sandler remake of “The Longest Yard,” rewrote “The Amityville Horror” and drafted a sequel to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

He was drafted for the new assignment by 20th Century Fox president Hutch Parker and senior veep Alex Young, who are overseeing the spinoffs as they separately develop a third “X-Men” installment. Simon Kinberg is writing that pic. The first two had a combined worldwide gross of $700 million.

Pic most likely will be produced by the “X-Men” tandem of Lauren Shuler Donner and Marvel Studios head Avi Arad.

Turner said he wasn’t a comicbook fanatic, but when he was asked to read back issues of the Marvel Comics franchise and see if any character was ripe for its own movie, he sparked to Magneto, a mutant whose power is the ability to manipulate and control metal objects.

The original “X-Men” film began with a prologue that showed his character as a child being led to a concentration camp by Nazis, and that is the period in which the Magneto film will take place. This setup will allow a future villain to at least flirt with the designation of protagonist. Since the character will be seen almost exclusively in his formative years, it is not clear whether McKellen will be in the film at all.

“I pitched a film that is almost ‘The Pianist’ meets ‘X-Men,’ about a guy who, after watching his family slaughtered, has an awakening of his powers and seeks revenge,” Turner said.

Storyline will heavily involve Professor X, the wheelchair-using X-Men leader played in the films by Patrick Stewart. That character was a soldier in the allied force that liberated the concentration camps. The professor meets Magneto after the war, and while they bond over the realization that they are alike in their special powers, their differences soon turn them into enemies.

Turner said the film is one of several origin stories that Hollywood has grown sweet on telling. He wrote a backstory to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” that tells how Leatherface came to be, and Dino and Martha De Laurentiis are working with author Thomas Harris on “Behind the Mask,” a film and novel about the origins of Hannibal Lecter.

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