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H’w’d looks combat-ready

Iraq war pix on the march

When it comes to war, Hollywood is usually behind the times, not the lines.

Since the end of WWII, war films have typically lagged the actual conflicts by five years or more. “MASH” tackled the 1950-53 Korean War in 1970. The U.S. pulled out of Vietnam in 1973 but the first pics on its aftermath, “Coming Home” and “The Deer Hunter,” arrived in 1978. Even the 1991 Gulf War didn’t see action onscreen until 1999’s “Three Kings.”

But the Iraq War may be the first conflict in 50-plus years to bring out Hollywood’s big guns while the battle’s still raging.

The announcement last week that Ron Howard plans to direct “Last Man Home,” about the hunt for an AWOL American soldier in Iraq, means there are now at least a half-dozen pics centered around the Iraq War in the works.

Politically charged pics — historically hot potatoes in Hollywood — have become so abundant that filmmakers are actually rushing to get them out the gate.

Irwin Winkler‘s “Home of the Brave” — about soldiers returning home from the war in Iraq — now shooting, is looking to unspool later this year.

“Because it’s one of the first (war) movies, we’re really hoping to get our film out as soon as we can, hopefully this fall,” says producer Rob Cowan.

Also in the works: Columbia’s “Against All Enemies,” based on the tome by former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, with Paul Haggis set to direct; Par’s “The Invisible World,” to be directed by Ridley Scott, and “Stop Loss,” with Kimberly Peirce in line to helm; and Plum Pictures’ “Grace Is Gone,” with John Cusack attached to star.

With the success of such hot-button pics as “The Passion of the Christ,” “Syriana” and “Brokeback Mountain,” Hollywood is more willing to take on controversial fare.

But the first real test of how willing auds are to embrace even more topical fare comes next month, when Universal unspools “United 93,” about the struggle that took place aboard one of the planes hijacked on 9/11. Then in August comes Oliver Stone‘s World Trade Center pic.

If auds are onboard to relive 9/11 onscreen, that may pave the way for the next wave of war pics.