Believe it or not, Par riffs on Ripley

Burton will direct Carrey in tentpole pic

Jim Carrey will topline and Tim Burton will helm Paramount’s action-adventure pic based on the exploits of Robert Ripley, the explorer and newspaper columnist who created “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”

Studio expects to begin production on the tentpole in London in October for a late 2007 release.

Carrey, who’ll next be seen starring in “Fun With Dick and Jane,” will squeeze in two movies before reporting to the Ripley set. He’s booked to next star for Joel Schumacher in the New Line thriller “Number 23” opposite Elisabeth Shue, and then he will star with Ben Stiller in the Jay Roach-directed “Used Guys” for 20th Century Fox.

Studio courted Burton and Carrey for several months. Once Burton came clear of “The Corpse Bride,” he sparked to the idea of doing the script with Carrey. The dealmaking has just begun.

Alphaville partners Sean Daniel and Jim Jacks, who developed “Ripley,” will produce along with Richard Zanuck. Zanuck has been a producer of Burton’s last three films, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Big Fish” and “Planet of the Apes.”

Production co-president Brad Weston is overseeing a film that Par prexy Gail Berman referred to as a high priority and potential franchise (Daily Variety, Nov. 2). Pic also puts Par chairman Brad Grey back in business with Burton, after Grey produced “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” at Plan B.

Pic is scripted by Burton’s “Ed Wood” writers Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander. The duo also worked with Carrey on the Andy Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon.”

New project picks up Ripley at a time when he has attained celebrity status through a “Believe It or Not” column that chronicled his search for the greatest oddities on the planet. Along the way, he learns to appreciate his unusual human discoveries as more than mere conquests to be catalogued.

“It is a great fit for both Jim and Tim, because it is a visual action-adventure setting, but a character with emotion, humanity and comedic sensibilities, all qualities Jim is best at,” Par’s Weston said.

While the film is period, it isn’t out to replicate the swashbuckling tone of Paramount’s Indiana Jones series. The studio is still hoping to make a fourth installment of the Harrison Ford franchise, with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas honing a script written by Jeff Nathanson.

(Michael Fleming contributed to this report.)

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