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Fox, Marvel move on ‘Magneto’

Goyer to direct ‘X-Men’ spin-off

David Goyer will direct “Magneto,” the “X-Men” spinoff in development from 20th Century Fox and Marvel Studios that centers on the villain played in the original trilogy by Ian McKellen.

After the first three “X-Men” films grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, Fox and Marvel hatched the spinoff program. “Magneto” will be the second such movie to go into production. First up is “Wolverine,” a David Benioff-scripted film that will star Hugh Jackman as the steel-clawed mutant; Fox and Marvel will set a director shortly on that pic.

Goyer will develop a “Magneto” script that was written by Sheldon Turner.

McKellen’s participation in “Magneto” will likely be limited since the film is an origin story. In a storyline hinted at by the original “X-Men” films, Magneto comes to grips with his mutant ability to manipulate metal objects as he and his parents try to survive in Auschwitz. Magneto meets Professor Xavier (played as the wheelchair-bound mutant leader by Patrick Stewart) when the latter is a soldier liberating the concentration camp.

Magneto hones his powers by hunting down and killing Nazi war criminals who tortured him, and his lust for vengeance turns Xavier and Magneto into enemies. Both characters will be played by actors in their 20s.

Marvel, coming off Columbia’s “Ghost Rider,” has a May 4 bow for Col’s “Spider-Man 3” and a June 15 opening for “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” via Fox.

Marvel Studios is in production on the Robert Downey Jr.-Terrence Howard starrer “Iron Man,” which Paramount has slotted for a May 2, 2008, release, and Edward Norton was recently set to play the title character in “The Incredible Hulk,” a Louis Leterrier-directed reinvention of the franchise for which Universal has set a June 13, 2008, release.

Goyer, who directed “Blade: Trinity” and whose new film, “The Invisible,” will be released this weekend by Disney, has scripted the “Blade” films for Marvel. He penned DC Comics transfer “Batman Begins.”

Turner’s credits include “The Longest Yard” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.”

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