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U picks up ‘Changeling’

Thriller added to Howard's growing list

Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment have purchased J. Michael Straczynski’s thriller “The Changeling,” which is being eyed by Ron Howard to direct.

Project, to be produced by Brian Grazer, joins the shortlist of pics Howard is considering as his next endeavor.

Story, billed as based on actual events, is about a mother who prays for the return of her kidnapped son. When her prayers are answered, however, she begins to suspect the boy who comes back is not her child.

Straczynski is a leading comicbook writer with an exclusive deal with Marvel and several Spider-Man titles under his belt. He also created TV skein “Babylon 5.”

Howard is coming off “The Da Vinci Code,” which has so far grossed more than $700 million worldwide for Sony. While that perf has inspired sequel talk on the Sony lot, Howard hasn’t committed to return.

Helmer is, however, attached to helm several Imagine projects. These include Iraq war drama “Last Man Home,” a spec script by Jamie Moss that U bought in March; and Winnie Holzman’s “The Look of Real,” also at U, about women working in the garment industry. Latter could star helmer’s daughter Bryce Dallas Howard.

Howard also is attached to Paramount’s “The Serpent and the Eagle,” about the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, and “The Power of Duff” at U, which follows a local news anchor whose newscast prayers begin to be answered.